By Anna Rose Johnson

Marissa Oakley was a standout junior elite in 2014 with her huge double-double bars dismount, impressive tumbling, and fluid dance. Injuries prevented her from reaching her full potential over the next couple of years, but she’s made a remarkable comeback and has vowed to end her elite career on a high note. Marissa, now 18, recently spoke with us about qualifying to the U.S. Classic, moving to Everest Gymnastics, and the future.

Inside Gymnastics: Could you give us a brief overview of your career so far, especially the last couple of years?
Marissa Oakley: The past few years have been filled with many ups and downs for me. In 2014, I had the opportunity to compete during the summer elite season at both Classics and at P&G Championships, which was such a wonderful experience for me! I had some minor injuries in the spring of 2015, and was planning on making my return to competition at 2015 Classics. Unfortunately, I was injured during warmups for that competition. I was hoping to return to competition in 2016; however, recovery was a lot longer than we originally anticipated which in turn kept me out for another season. I started attending national team training camps again late last year and was hoping to have the opportunity to compete during the spring, but unfortunately sustained another injury early this year. I spent a large portion of this year getting healthy again, and the routines that I competed at the national qualifier were still a bit downgraded, but I am happy with where I’m at now and hope to build on my performance from that meet going into the rest of this season.

Inside: What made you decide to return to elite?
Marissa: After the 2014 season, I was so motivated and felt that I had so many goals that I wanted to accomplish in the elite world. Even though I have not been physically able to compete these past couple years, my heart has always been set on continuing towards those goals. I want to be able to end my elite career on my own terms, whenever that may be, rather than just giving up because I was injured. I did not want to have any regrets, and felt that I owed it to myself to give elite one more try before heading off to college.

Inside: Tell us about qualifying to the U.S. Classic!
Marissa: Qualifying to Classics was so exciting for me! The national qualifier was not a perfect meet for me, but it was so nice to be back out on the competition floor. There were times leading up to the meet that I doubted myself a bit, so I think being able to go out and hit my routines was a great confidence booster. It showed me what I can do if I just trust myself and my training!

Inside: How is your training going in general?
Marissa: Right now, training has been going great! I am happy to be healthy and fully training, and have been focusing on execution and consistency to help build my confidence as I head into Classics.

Inside: Are you working on any upgrades?
Marissa: With Classics so close, I am not working on any major upgrades right now. However, I am hoping to add a few connections into my beam routine, and I am also building back up to a harder dismount on bars. I am hoping that these upgrades will be ready for Classics!

Inside: What is it like training at your new gym, Everest?
Marissa: I absolutely love training at Everest! It was definitely a big transition at first. Having a new schedule and conditioning program while also transitioning into an online school program for my last two years of high school was definitely challenging at first. However, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity in for anything. Both the coaches and girls are so supportive and we are pushed to be our very best even on those hard days. Everest is a great fit for me and I am thankful for all my new lifelong friends.

 

I hope I can hit my routines at Classics just like I have been doing in training, and then hopefully I can qualify for P&G Championships again. 

Inside: What are your goals for 2017 and the future?
Marissa: The main goal I had coming into 2017 was to be healthy and competing again, so I am just hoping to take in every moment and enjoy myself while competing. I hope I can hit my routines at Classics just like I have been doing in training, and then hopefully I can qualify for P&G Championships again. Right now, my focus is 3 events to compete, while continuing to train for that 4th event. I’ve learned to take one day at a time and see where it takes me. I don’t want to have any regrets.

Inside: Are you considering Tokyo 2020?
Marissa: Right now, I am just taking it one day at a time and trying not to look too far ahead. My number one goal is to stay healthy, enjoy the summer elite season, and compete for Georgia. I haven’t even considered that path right now. I believe everything happens for a reason and I am going to continue to enjoy each opportunity that presents itself. I am just grateful for what today brings.

Inside: Are you excited to do NCAA gymnastics?
Marissa: I am super excited for NCAA gymnastics! Both of my parents competed in college gymnastics, and it has always been a dream of mine to follow in their footsteps. While I know it will be a big transition to make, I know that Georgia has such great resources. I will of course have a wonderful team and staff members to make everything easier! I am so excited to be a part of such a great program at Georgia and contribute to the team in every way I can.

Inside: What are some of your favorite gymnastics memories?
Marissa: I have had so many great memories from over the years, but the one that stands out to me the most was competing at Championships in 2014. That was just always a huge goal of mine. I remember being so star-struck to be competing in the same meet as some of my idols! That showed me that if I worked hard, I could accomplish all of my goals. And then, like I said before, the national qualifier a few weeks ago was such a great memory for me, just seeing that I was able to come back from all of those setbacks and finally be back on the competition floor.

Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Marissa: I would just like to thank everyone that has supported me throughout my career—my coaches, for always believing in me and pushing me to be my very best, my teammates, who always support and inspire me in the gym, and to all of the doctors and therapists that have helped me through all of the ups and downs of my career. Also to my family, for all of the love and support they give me and all of the sacrifices that they have made. Gymnastics is truly a team effort and a rollercoaster, and I know I would not be where I am today without each and every one of them.

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com