By Anna Rose Johnson
World Champion Ashton Locklear has been a major contender on the elite scene for three years now, first rising to stardom in 2014 when she helped the U.S. team to a gold medal at Worlds in Nanning. Despite numerous setbacks and challenges, Ashton persevered to become one of the 2016 Olympic alternates, and now she’s looking ahead to the next Olympic Games. In this new interview, Ashton gives details on her 2016 season, her goals for 2017, and much more.
Inside Gymnastics: How is your training going?
Ashton Locklear: My training is coming along fine. I took two months off after the Olympic Tour, so I am in the process of getting my difficulty back now.
Inside: What are your goals for 2017?
Ashton: My goals for 2017 are to come back strong and hopefully compete at the World Championships. Montreal is definitely my ultimate goal for this season. I know it’s a challenge, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
Inside: Are you training the all-around, and will you be competing AA this year?
Ashton: I am not training all-around but I have been playing around with floor lately, so we will see.
Inside: At this point, are you aiming for Tokyo 2020?
Ashton: There are so many things that can happen in three years, so I am just taking it one step at a time. But, if I had to say, Tokyo is definitely my long-term goal.
Inside: Could you describe your 2016 season in general?
Ashton: 2016 was a jam-packed season. I feel like that whole year went by in a blink of an eye. So many things happened so fast. But, in the end, I can say it was a year I will never forget. I grew so much with all the experiences I had in 2016 both as an athlete and as a person.
Inside: What was it like to travel to Brazil last summer as part of Team USA?
Ashton: Traveling to Brazil as part of Team USA was the best experience I’ve had so far in my life. Even though I did not get the chance to compete, just being able to go to Rio to train and cheer on the Final Five was a tremendous honor. I was so proud to be one of the alternates. I was proud of the way we trained and never gave up, even in the face of the ever-present obstacles. We truly learned what it meant to have that “USA” on our backs even though we were not out there on the competition floor.
Inside: Could you tell us about your experiences at 2017 Jesolo Trophy?
Ashton: Jesolo 2017 was a different experience for me, being the veteran of the team. I learned that that title comes with a lot of responsibility, but I loved every minute of it. Going into that competition with a watered down routine was a little odd, but I think I was able to show that I haven’t lost the quality in my bar routine with my execution score.
Inside: Could you tell us about your decision to forego NCAA? What were some of the reasons you decided to stick with elite?
Ashton: After competing at Worlds in 2014, I realized that this was what I wanted to do. Collegiate gymnastics wasn’t where my heart was, but representing USA is.
After competing at Worlds in 2014, I realized that this was what I wanted to do.
Inside: Are you working on any upgrades?
Ashton: After taking a lot of time off, my main focus is to be where I was in 2016, but I do have some upgrades in the works.
Inside: When will your next competition be?
Ashton: My next competition will be the U.S. Classic in July.
Inside: What have been some of your greatest gymnastics accomplishments?
Ashton: I would say some of my greatest accomplishments were being named to the National Team after winning the U.S. Championships uneven bars title in 2014 and 2016, as well as [the bars title] at the Pan-American Championships and Pacific Rim Championships. Being on the gold-medal team with Team USA at the 2014 World Championships, and of course being named as an alternate on the Olympic team [have been] my greatest accomplishments so far.
Inside: Despite injuries over the past few years, you’ve managed to make a great comeback. How do you find the strength to persevere through the tough times?
Ashton: Yes, I have had many devastating setbacks caused by my many injuries over the past few years, but my strength to persevere comes form my goals. I constantly set goals for myself and just keep striving to reach them. I find that as long as I have my goals to focus on, nothing can stop me.
Inside: What are some of your favorite competition memories?
Ashton: Some of my favorite competition memories have been standing on the podium and hearing our national anthem play. It fills me with overwhelming pride. Another incredible memory was being named an Olympic team member and running out on the floor with the confetti falling from the celling. But being a member of the greatest team with the most wonderful teammates in the world is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ashton: I would like to say I am so grateful and humbled by all the love and support from my coaches, my team, my community and most of all my family. Without their support and love, I would never have had the opportunity to have any of these unbelievable experiences, so to you all I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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