JESSICA: Remember this show is PG-13 so you might hear a naughty word or two.
MCKAYLA: When I wanted to talk, and when I wanted to be open and kind of have that conversation, I wasn’t allowed to have it. And that was really hard because my personality is very just like outgoing like that. Like, I know Simone’s coach like Aimee just let’s her smile, which I’m just like super jealous of.
JESSICA: Let’s her smile, let’s just yeah
MCKAYLA: Well that’s all I would ever want is just to
MCKAYLA: -enjoy competing, like, enjoy training. But I didn’t really have that choice. So I just kind of like, was just traumatized consistently. And once you get stuck in not speaking up for yourself, the universe just keeps giving you more and more things that bring you down. Because you need to eventually learn how to speak up for yourself. And it was my lesson to learn.
JESSICA: This is episode 187 for February 24, 2016. And welcome to the number one gymnastics podcast in the galaxy, bringing you all the most fascinating people from around the gymternet. I’m Jessica, and today our guest is Olympic gold medalist and three time World Champion, and probably the most recognized person from the 2012 Olympics for her unimpressed face, McKayla Maroney. So we’re kind of excited around here. Thank you so much to our Club Gym Nerd members for making this show possible. And also to TumblTrak. We all know gymnastics is a whole lot more fun when you’re not injured. That’s where TumblTrak comes in. With a complete lineup of equipment geared at learning new skills safer, athletes can practice rep after rep after rep while keeping their bodies healthy. TumblTrak equipment also helps a rehabilitating athlete recover from an injury. Just this year, TumblTrak has expanded into the European market with the opening of a new warehouse in the UK. Whether it’s in the US or Europe, TumblTrak can help you fulfill all of your gymnastics needs.
JESSICA: So welcome to GymCastic.
MCKAYLA: Thank you so much.
JESSICA: So this is a special episode requested by you.
MCKAYLA: I know
JESSICA: Which I was like what? Oh my god. Ok yes. Yes. We will do it.
JESSICA: And so we’re doing a video and we’re doing a podcast. So for those of you who are listening to this, you can also watch a video. And we’ll tell you how to do that.
MCKAYLA: Yeah come watch the video.
JESSICA: Yes because it looks amazing in here.
MCKAYLA: For sure. We vibed it up.
JESSICA: And we look super hot just so you know.
MCKAYLA: Well you do.
JESSICA: No you do. Ok. So let’s just start with some myth busters
JESSICA: Which is something we like to do on the show.
JESSICA: Gymnastics myth busters. So let’s start with the first one
JESSICA: Is it true or false that you had to hire security guards after the Olympics
MCKAYLA: It’s true
MCKAYLA: Yeah after got off the plane from New York, that’s the first place that we went. And we definitely had to have some people help us out. I mean we just got back from the Olympics and our country was just freaking out. They were just so excited to see us. So, yes, that’s true.
JESSICA: Is it true that you were at one point afraid that you were going to be too tall for gymnastics because your dad’s really tall?
MCKAYLA: Yes. Well my mom’s like 5’2 and my dad’s like 6’4. And people just would tell me all the time “you’re going to be so tall, you’re not going to be able to go to the Olympics, you’re going to be like smacking the bar.” So they just put that in my head so I was kind of scared about that. But gymnastics definitely stunts your growth.
JESSICA: You think?
MCKAYLA: Yeah completely. So anybody who’s worried about being tall like their dad, it’s not going to happen [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Ok, so who do you credit with teaching you the technique for your vault?
MCKAYLA: Some gymnasts are just great at specific events. And I will definitely give credit to Howie and Arthur for sure because they made it better. But I think at the end of the day it’s a God-given talent. Usain Bolt, nobody can teach him to run that fast. You know? But they can make them better. They can make them run faster.
JESSICA: A lot of people want to give it to Howie.
MCKAYLA: Yeah. I mean I think he was the one who made me start doing 2.5s. Who was like, you need to do this, you need to- you’re going to go to the Olympics. So he believed in me and he wanted that for me. I was training double backs.
MCKAYLA: I actually went to- I had a dream the other night that one of the girls competed a double back and I was like “I should’ve done that vault! I should’ve done it!” and then I just remembered it was a dream.
JESSICA: You were like- when you did, just your timers, everyone could see you could do a double back. So many coaches are afraid for a gymnast to do that because-
MCKAYLA: You know what happened? I went to camp and Martha was like “do not ever do that again!” That’s not the right accent. But it just like, I did it. And I did it there a couple times and she got mad at Howie. She was like don’t make her do that! Because I was 14 at the time.
MCKAYLA: And it’s just the most intense block. You have to block so high. And the thing about double backs that’s really dangerous is once you’re going for it, you’re going for it. For 2.5 you can maybe do a full, a double.
MCKAYLA: When you’re doing double backs you can’t stop, you’re going to die
MCKAYLA: Die. Like there’s no-
JESSICA: There’s no getting out of it.
MCKAYLA: Yeah I definitely was serious about that
JESSICA: So you actually did them at camp in front of Martha?
JESSICA: That is the best freaking thing I’ve ever heard in my life
MCKAYLA: And got in trouble for it
JESSICA: That’s even better. Oh my god. Speaking of vault, let’s talk about your- in London
JESSICA: Your finals vault in the team finals.
JESSICA: Team finals, not event finals
MCKAYLA: That one
JESSICA: Team finals
JESSICA: The one that you stuck the shit out of
MCKAYLA: [LAUGHS] ok so we can say that
JESSICA: In front of the entire world
JESSICA: Yes. Do you think that you should’ve gotten a 10 on that vault?
MCKAYLA: Yeah. I do. But at least it wasn’t- you don’t ever really see the score at the Olympics. And it was team finals. At the end of the day I was competing for my team, I wasn’t even competing for myself. So it wasn’t like “oh my god I didn’t get a 10.” I did that stick for the team. And we all did. Like we all- it was that moment was definitely like, that Olympic moment that was just like us three girls just went up and like hit, hit, hit. Like if you watch it on YouTube I like ran off and I was dancing. Literally all I wanted to do was just start dancing because that’s what I want to do when I was happy. So I was like trying not to like be like really weird. So it was just meant to be and very special, and I will never forget that moment.
JESSICA: That’s awesome
MCKAYLA: The Olympics has, just think about it. People train their whole life for those moments. So just intense things happen. It’s just very, an extreme environment in that building.
MCKAYLA: You can feel it, it’s crazy.
JESSICA: So 2013 Worlds, you came back, you made another team. So after the Olympics
JESSICA: You had your toe surgery
MCKAYLA: I had my four surgeries.
JESSICA: Yeah. Did you have four surgeries between- because you had the toe
MCKAYLA: Three. Three
JESSICA: Broken leg
MCKAYLA: So I competed at the Olympics with a fractured shin and a broken toe, bone, foot. Everything was like shattered and horrible and displaced. And went home- no no no, went on tour with all that broken. And since my whole body was just like “McKayla please stop doing gymnastics we’re dying here.” So I broke it on the first show that we had and fractured my tibia right out of my leg. And had to be taken to the emergency room and get surgery on that like as fast as possible. And then we were just like might as well get the toe surgery. And then I had to get the screws taken out of this because they started like, popping out of my leg. Because when screws don’t want to be in your leg, they come out of your leg. So that’s something that I took from that. But three surgeries, and then went to Worlds and just, yeah. It was pretty cool.
JESSICA: Yeah. And I think you showed people actually that you could have a life outside of gymnastics, and a little bit of a career outside of gymnastics, and still be World Champion.
MCKAYLA: People didn’t like that
JESSICA: I know and I’m like she did it!
MCKAYLA: “Stop posting you know risqué Instagram selfies, that is not going to help your gymnastics career.” I mean with gym you still don’t have a normal life. I think I was pretending, and you don’t. You’re in the gym 8 hours a day. It’s not like I was going to parties or anything. I still don’t. That’s just not me. It’s not any of the girls. We’re very focused. If you’re training for any competition in gymnastics, you are so- there’s no halfway. I really wish you could, but you can’t. It’s not safe. And your mind physically can’t do that. Because it’s just like, it’s too much. Especially in the environment with my gym, in that place, you can’t. It’s like six days a week, every day, very serious.
JESSICA: Yep. So going back, you just talked about the tour.
JESSICA: And your injury on tour
MCKAYLA: Yeah that was horrible
JESSICA: It like- me, always wanting everyone to be as protected as possible
JESSICA: All the gymnasts, just put them in bubble wrap and make sure they’re happy until they can perform again.
MCKAYLA: I’m scared about that
JESSICA: I was like-
MCKAYLA: because people get hurt on tour
MCKAYLA: See I didn’t know that. I wish I knew that. And your body’s just so done after the Olympics. All you need to do and all you should do is just rest and go on a vacation and don’t even move your body. And the kind of mat setup wasn’t exactly competition right. Because it’s like, they set it up for once place, so it’s kind of like an amusement park that goes up and gets taken down. They’re not that safe. So the mat that I was going on where I broke my tibia, it wasn’t a mat that was ok or allowed or whatever the rules are.
JESSICA: Wasn’t like a regulation mat
MCKAYLA: Yeah. So there was definitely a problem there. But you know I didn’t even think about kind of speaking up about that. Just didn’t come up. Well, you know, everything happens for a reason so it’s all good.
JESSICA: Did anybody tell you ahead of time like, with a fracture, you know, if you
JESSICA: have hard landings, this is what could happen?
MCKAYLA: It was just a bad idea in general. But you live and learn.
JESSICA: Back to 2013 Worlds, you had the leg, you had the toe, you had the knee
MCKAYLA: 2013 Worlds
JESSICA: You had the screws. 2013 Worlds
MCKAYLA: Got it
JESSICA: This is after you came back
MCKAYLA: Belgium, yeah
JESSICA: Right, Belgium. With the Belgian waffles, which you refused to leave until you got waffles. You notified everyone after you won vault. But the thing that killed everyone is that you went on floor and you got deducted for the overtime. What happened? Did heads roll? Like
MCKAYLA: That was actually a horrible- that is something that kind of really was just like this is why I want to go back because I want to be able to do floor. Because floor, yeah I love vault, vault will always be my event. But floor was my favorite event. And I would always say that in all my interviews because you can express yourself, you can have fun, you can really let people see your character. And floor was kind of the time to just be myself a little bit. So yeah that moment was not cool. But my music I guess was a little too long and they started the stopwatch early. And, or I started my like Napoleon Dynamite pose too early.
JESSICA: Is that what you called it?
MCKAYLA: So, it was just too bad because I really wanted to be- I mean at Visas, P&Gs, I got first place I think. So I really wanted to kind of keep that going for floor.
JESSICA: Mhmm. Yep.
MCKAYLA: And I did really well at the camp too. I got the highest floor score I’d ever gotten at the camp. But that’s all just like, hidden secret stuff.
JESSICA: I know right? Why are the camp scores always secret?
MCKAYLA: It’s so weird too because I always do my best things at camp and I’m just like ugh
JESSICA: No one will ever know that I got a 17.5
MCKAYLA: Yeah like I just always do great at the wrong times
JESSICA: I know I wish everyone could know the scores and what goes on. I want a live feed camera from the camp so everyone can see everything.
MCKAYLA: People don’t want that there for a reason
MCKAYLA: It’s just scary in there
JESSICA: Yeah I know
MCKAYLA: The energy’s just like oh my god, it’s terrifying. And you feel like every move is like, this is me making the team or not, you know? And that moment and that amount of pressure had been building up since like, for years you know? So it just gets so intense when it’s just 10, 15 days away that you’re going to be leaving to go to the Olympics. And they never say that you’re on the team. They never say that until you’re there and you’ve competed the first day. So they’re always just like “we can switch you out, don’t get big in your head.” So when people say I was so cocky and that’s why I fell on my vault because I believed in myself, that wasn’t what it was. You can’t even be cocky in that sport, it’s impossible. It’s amazing how much just pressure we’re under 24/7.
JESSICA: And a lot of people have criticized the men’s team because they have all the talent but don’t do as well as the women. And they name the men’s team so early. And people say that the camps aren’t as intense and they need to do it more like the women do because the women are so successful.
MCKAYLA: I guess yeah we’ve done well with it. And we got the gold medal. So you can’t really argue that that didn’t work. But I do think there are better ways for your body. Because by the time I got to the Olympics I already had a fractured shin and broken- my toe was broken. And then at the Olympics we- so we got off the plane. That camp was like 30 days long. No days off. So we’re used to, I’m used to one Sunday at least give me a Sunday off and I’ll just be like God bless it’s God day, it’s God’s day let me just take in this feeling day. We had no days off.
JESSICA: 30 days in a row?
MCKAYLA: Don’t take my words that seriously but I’m pretty sure we were there for a month doing- we didn’t have one day off. That’s all I know. We didn’t have one day off. And it was that long and intense and competing. We competed like four times. So by the time we were done and we pack up our stuff, we get on a plane, and we get there, and we get all of our clothes. And when you’re in that Olympic environment, it’s just so stimulating it’s like crazy. Like your brain just starts spinning. And we go back to our room in the village and we’ve just walked through the whole entire airport, we’re like dead. We take a 30 minute nap and we go to training. And I get on the beam, I do a dismount, and I thought my foot fell off. And I was just like oh my god, I’ve never been, I almost threw up. You know when you’re in so much pain it just hurts so bad that I ended up still doing three routines after that on beam too.
JESSICA: Of course
MCKAYLA: And made it worse. And then I just by that time, when the pain like sits for a little while it just gets worse and worse and worse. So we had floor next and I couldn’t even do floor which was just, the first day. The first day. So I was just sitting in the corner hiding from media ice bucketing. And they’re like don’t limp, smile, make sure you have you just look like you’re fine. Because that’s the only way you’re going to stay on this team. Because you know you always had to be on. There was no off moment where you could just be like “I’m freaking out” you know? And I just kind of iced my foot. They gave me five days and they said if you can do a vault in five days and it’s a good vault, we’ll keep you. And you know at the end of the day I knew I could do a vault. I knew I could do that for my team. Because if I couldn’t, that wouldn’t be cool of me to be like oh I’m going to take this spot for somebody else. Because another girl could take it. I think Ebee or Sarah Finnegan had that. And I would’ve given it to them if I knew that I couldn’t have done it. But I knew that I could still do a vault no matter what.
JESSICA: Right. You were talking about some of your criticism you’ve gotten with social media and stuff like that. And one of the criticisms
MCKAYLA: That’s just social media in general
JESSICA: Oh my god
MCKAYLA: You can’t get away from it
JESSICA: How do you deal with that?
MCKAYLA: I don’t. For a while I would just like, it’s just so much better to not do it. You can’t win. Everybody’s always going to say something that kind of hurts you.
MCKAYLA: No matter what you say. So I just don’t even read it anymore. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’ll say this and then tomorrow I’ll be crying at something else. But where I’m like at peace with people not agreeing with what I say. And with social media my advice is be yourself because at the end of the day people are really going to appreciate that. And the people who are going to get it, it’ll speak to them. And the people who aren’t, they weren’t going to get it anyway. So you just really have to just stay true to yourself. And I just stay away from kind of things that are a lower vibration and just stay up for the highest good of everyone so I can help more people and spread more love and light. I sound crazy but I’m just
MCKAYLA: super into this stuff.
JESSICA: That’s good! It’s super positive
JESSICA: That totally makes sense
MCKAYLA: It just makes sense
JESSICA: Yeah. Well you do a great job. So many people, I asked some people ahead of time, I like to get feedback what would you want to ask McKayla Maroney.
JESSICA: And they didn’t even have questions. They were just like tell her thank you for being so positive on social media and being so open about her health struggles and like
MCKAYLA: See those are the things that make my day because sometimes I just want to delete my Twitter and everything. And then I’ll look at my DMs and they’re just like thank you for that. Tell them I say thank you because that means the world to me.
JESSICA: I will. I will. Ok. Back to the haters for a moment.
JESSICA: Give them a minute so you can answer this. So some people have said when you see a gymnast who’s had so many injuries, and you guys aren’t the first team that’s gone through this. Every single World team, every Olympic team, basically the majority of the team
MCKAYLA: I remember Alicia had this huge ice pack on her shoulder at like the one Olympics, yeah it’s just
JESSICA: The majority of the team
MCKAYLA: breaking down
JESSICA: has surgeries afterwards and who needs a whole six months or a year to come back
MCKAYLA: It’s crazy
JESSICA: It’s not just you guys
MCKAYLA: It’s a pattern
JESSICA: It’s a pattern
MCKAYLA: That’s been happening. How do we prevent that?
MCKAYLA: You know?
JESSICA: Exactly. So some people said this is because of poor nutrition. Do you think any of this have to do with poor nutrition on your part?
MCKAYLA: I mean that’s definitely a factor. There’s so many factors to it though. There’s mindset. There’s the way that you’re thinking because it all starts with the mindset. It all starts with how you look at yourself. In the beginning when I felt good about myself, everything’s good and you can kind of take the intense training. And you can take all that and really let everything else go. But when you have weight and nutrition and the pressure in the gym and just all the surgeries just stacked on top of you, it’s just too much to even kind of handle. I’ve just seen so many people just be so hurt. Like not hurt like sad, like affected. Like, I was taught that resting was lazy. Resting was you just not trying hard enough. And I mean you would go into the gym and you would have something hurt. Most gymnasts are used to this. Just somebody saying no you’re fine. And so you believe you’re fine. I’ve had, I came into the gym after Worlds in 2013 and my whole body felt like it was broken. It was shattering. I was just like oh my knees hurt so bad. And she was just like yeah, it’s probably just because you had a lot of days off so you’ve gained weight. And she didn’t say it in a mean way. It’s just like you’ve gained weight, you need to lose weight. And I was just like honestly in my head I was just like I wish that was the case. I wish I just needed to lose weight. But I knew that I was I needed to go get x-rays and MRIs. So I didn’t listen to myself for a while. So I was just like I called my mom I was crying in the locker room I was just like mom I need to get an MRI. And I had tendinosis in one which was no blood flow in my leg. And literally people have their leg cut off from stuff like that which is super duper dangerous.
JESSICA: Super dangerous
MCKAYLA: So I had to get surgery on that. And then I also just had tendinitis, extremely bad tendinitis in this knee. And I was just told that I was making it up. And I needed to lose weight.
JESSICA: Your coaches were telling you this
MCKAYLA: Yeah. But I think that’s what most gymnasts kind of get or that’s what we got in my gym. They always make excuses for pain. And it’s just a joke. Because you literally you start thinking that your pain isn’t real. And that’s what got really bad for me when my health just started tanking. I for so long though I was going insane, I thought I was making it up. That’s what everybody was telling me. You’re just making it up. You need to work harder and eat less. And it’s just and then that’s just a downward spiral. And then with the nutrition it’s like what you get and what most girls get but what I got was you need to lose weight. That’s just something that’s very common. And that’s ok. With gymnastics you do need to be light. Or else it’s dangerous with the skills that you’re doing you can’t put that much pressure on your body when you’re training that long. So there’s a piece of it that is correct. But that 24/7 going into the gym really just hating your body when you have that sort of mindset, your body starts deteriorating. I mean I would be training for seven hours and by the time it hit 8:00 I would be almost passing out. And I would be like wow good thing I didn’t eat, I feel so light right now. And I didn’t think that was messed up at all because nobody was saying that because I needed to lose weight. And they agreed. Yes. You’re looking skinnier, good job. That’s what I would get. I would get praise. And I think that’s definitely something that could really help the next generation of girls if they really just look at that and see how can we become better and get these girls to be at their peak of body feeling great.
MCKAYLA: Because that’s the most important thing. Mind, body, spirit, all has to be connected for you to go and do exactly what you need to do. Yeah.
JESSICA: So you knew when you came back from Worlds something was wrong. You didn’t listen to yourself.
JESSICA: It was getting so bad that your leg was
MCKAYLA: Because my whole life I never listened to myself
JESSICA: You listen to your coaches, didn’t stand up for yourself
JESSICA: Because that’s what you were taught
MCKAYLA: Yeah. They’ve always kind of made me feel like I can’t be myself. I mean, I would be on the bus at the Olympics and all the girls would be talking and listening to music and I wasn’t allowed to listen to music or talk.
JESSICA: Ok can we
MCKAYLA: I just was very, they wanted me to do so well so bad that they didn’t want any distractions for me.
JESSICA: Were you told when you go to meets don’t talk to anyone and just focus?
MCKAYLA: They really just like think that everybody’s going to affect you. Like, in a bad way. Instead of a good way. And I would be told to turn and face the wall. And don’t look, I wasn’t allowed to look at anybody. So I could, I was already a very focused gymnast to begin with. Aly would be like McKayla are you ok? Because I was just that, so focused. And so naturally that was me. But when I wanted to talk and when I wanted to be open and kind of have that conversation, I wasn’t allowed to have it. And that was really hard because my personality is very just like outgoing like that. Like, I know Simone’s coach like Aimee just let’s her smile, which I’m just like super jealous of.
JESSICA: Let’s her smile, let’s just yeah
MCKAYLA: Well that’s all I would ever want is just to
MCKAYLA: -enjoy competing, like, enjoy training. But I didn’t really have that choice. So I just kind of like, was just traumatized consistently. And once you get stuck in not speaking up for yourself, the universe just keeps giving you more and more things that bring you down. Because you need to eventually learn how to speak up for yourself. And it was my lesson to learn. And I needed to learn it. And whoever, I put no blame on anybody for that, because I’m here now. And I’m happy. And I’m just like, I’m so happy to be doing this interview with you to begin with. But yeah, so it all happens for a reason again and I’ll say that a million times over.
JESSICA: So we’ve kind of talked about your injuries. We’ve talked about what it was like for you in the gym.
JESSICA: The struggles that you’ve gone through. And I remember the last time we saw an interview with you after your March 2014 you had your knee surgery. So this was five or six months after you felt like something wasn’t right.
JESSICA: You finally had surgery on your knee for the tendinosis.
MCKAYLA: Mhmm. Too late, yeah.
JESSICA: And that’s for the lack of blood flow
MCKAYLA: [LAUGHS] Never heard that before
JESSICA: Kill your bones. Right? Oh my god yeah. Then I remember you gave an interview at Visa Championships or P&Gs whatever it was in 2014 and you were like I’m coming back
JESSICA: I’m going to do this. I’m determined.
MCKAYLA: And every time I ever said that, I meant it. And even when I told, I went to Classics in Chicago. I threw out the first pitch. And then I went and watched the girls there. And I was just like I really just wanted to be on the floor competing. And I went and looked at the vault and got so emotional because it will always just be my thing that I did and I loved. And I went and talked to Martha and was like yes I’m serious about this, I’m getting healthier, I’m back in the gym, I’m so excited about this year and this upcoming Olympics. And she was like great I’m excited for you. And she was just really cool. And then I just got really unhealthy again.
JESSICA: So what happened?
MCKAYLA: So since October of 2014 I would go back to the gym and then burn myself out for three months. And I did that until probably like a couple months ago. And I would go to doctor after doctor. They thought I got so many blood tests. I took this one SnapChat picture of just like 15 blood tubes and the lady was like no you can’t, you can’t take pictures of the blood tubes.
MCKAYLA: And I was like damnit I wanted to show my friends how horrible shit I’m going through right now. So I couldn’t use that. But I was so unhealthy and tired that I couldn’t get out of bed really. I mean I talked about it in my YouTube video.
JESSICA: In your video
MCKAYLA: I got depressed
JESSICA: I mean you talked about feeling suicidal and having a
JESSICA: lot of anxiety
MCKAYLA: Dark times
JESSICA: Yeah. Did you get
MCKAYLA: I’m so out of that so it’s really hard for me to even go back to that point.
MCKAYLA: I don’t even know how I got there. But I was there. And I mean it’s weird what depression can do to you. It sucks everything out of you. I just had no- I looked at the world and I thought that it was ugly. And it was the most horrible moment in my heart because I knew that it was beautiful. And I knew that there were so many good things about life that I used to love. And on social media I would just be like no I’m fine. I was always trying to keep it positive and keep up what I wanted to be. Because I was just holding on to that hope that I was going to make it. And I wanted to make it so bad. I wanted the reason why I wanted to go to this next Olympics I finally figured it out. It’s like, I wanted to show people that when everybody else is up against them, they can get through the struggle and the pain and just all the surgeries that I had and do it because they love something. And I just one day just was sitting outside and I was like why am I doing this. Yeah that’s cool that I wanted to do it to help inspire people. But I didn’t know how to be ok with not being a gymnast. Because you know I go into a Starbucks or Jamba Juice or anything and they’re like are you going to the next one? And until the other day, I was not ok with saying no. And I had no choice in my mind to be anything else. So even being burnt out, even having everything in my life tell me McKayla you have to be done, I know you don’t want to, I know this is the one thing you really thought that was for you, but eventually you know you move on. And that’s ok. And you have to be so passionate and so in love with gymnastics to be able to get to the Olympics. And when you start losing even just an ounce of that, I was just like I’m not going to make it. I’m not. I called Arthur and I was just like I think, I took a day- I remember the last day I was in the gym, my whole body felt like it was on fire. Have you ever been so tired that you’re like, peaceful because you can’t even, you have no thoughts?
JESSICA: Oh god that sounds so scary
MCKAYLA: I was just like wow I’m so tired. And I just slept for three days. I was that burnt out. It was just so so bad. And I was just like I’m going to try to pretend like I’m done and see how that feels. And I just felt like a weight lift off me. Sometimes it’s the thing that you need to let go that’s really holding you back from being healthy. And I’m just ready to put my worth and value into something else. And I’m just ready to just be excited about something else. Because I just got so bored with being unhealthy. I’m just like I’m over this. I don’t think I was over gymnastics. I don’t think that was the thing. I had so much more I wanted to do. I wanted to do a triple. I wanted to do half on full and a half. I wanted to do better bars. I wanted to win a gold medal on vault and to compete on floor. But my body was just like I don’t really want to be treated like that anymore. And I don’t want anybody to ever think that McKayla is retiring. I don’t even want people to use that word. Because I didn’t- I got into gymnastics when I was 18 months old. My mom put me in a mommy and me class. This is something I’m always going to be a part of. I’m never leaving this sport whether you like it or not I’m sorry, I’m staying. And the only difference is I’m not competing anymore. But I’m going to be on the sidelines. I’m going to be at the Olympics cheering the girls on if I can. And it’s really hard for me to be able to be comfortable with saying that, because I haven’t felt like that’s enough to be on the sidelines. To be just that girl that’s just cheering, which is so messed up. Because that’s not true. Everybody has their time and their moment. And I’m moving on to my next moment. And we all have those things in our life. We hit different pieces. And for my fans that have been supporting me through this whole entire journey, I just want them to know that if it’s hard for them, that it’s hard for me too. And it’s definitely a grieving process.
MCKAYLA: And that I’m here for them and I love them no matter if they’re my fan or not. And I hope that they can love me whether I’m a gymnast or not. So, yeah.
JESSICA: Moving on to a different phase of your life now and to a new chapter. You have your face has changed, your eyes have changed
MCKAYLA: Stop! Oh my god
JESSICA: You look so happy
MCKAYLA: Because I’ve been, I mean I’ve been holding this in for a while. And I think it’s just so hard for a gymnast or an athlete to leave their sport with peace. How do you do that and make people happy? Because their person, their person that they love as an athlete is done. And it’s a goodbye for them. And it’s a goodbye for me. And it’s just, it’s just hard in general. So I’ve been really just like, brewing on this whole emotion and feeling and how to say it the right way and just, I don’t know if there is a right way to say it, other than just being honest. And the way that I think of it is so gymnastics was like my first love, right? My boyfriend. Think of it. Literally. And breaking up with this thing that I’ve been doing for my whole entire life is like the most painful thing ever. And that’s why I’m lighting up because I finally get to really do something and tell my fans that I love with all my heart that I’m going on this new journey. I’m actually going to be getting into music now. And I’m just so excited. I’ve been writing and writing and just making demos. I’m in production right now in the studio. And again, music is kind of like gymnastics. It takes a lot of hard work. I love being creative, I love writing, I love just the art. So this isn’t something that’s random. This isn’t going off of anybody’s thing that they’re telling me to do. This is going off of my heart. We think that for gymnasts that there’s a peak and they hit it and they’re done. And I know that people will probably say that to me. But I don’t even think that I hit my peak in my life. I don’t think I did. And I think every moment is just a never ending healing and transformation of bettering yourself and becoming more and more you. And if this video does nothing else, I just want it to inspire people to really follow their dream. And that’s what I’ve stood for for my whole life. Even just getting into gymnastics. Eight years old. I’m trying to go to the Olympics I would tell people. And they’d laugh at me. They’d be like oh my god you’re so cute. And I’m like no I’m serious. And It’s all about believe in yourself and I’m going to do that same thing now.
JESSICA: Spiritually critical, I’m going to get a shirt that says that
MCKAYLA: Oh my god
JESSICA: Don’t be so. There’s been a lot of criticism from some fans about AOGC and about Arthur and Galina specifically that their coaching style breaks gymnasts, either
MCKAYLA: I agree
JESSICA: Do you?
MCKAYLA: I completely agree. I love them, they love me, they love their gymnasts. But I started to learn that sometimes they really weren’t helping me in a mental way. And technical, let me just give Arthur and Galina, they’re the best technical coaches in the whole entire world. Arthur changed my gymnastics. And I’m so forever grateful for that. But just like mentally, they just messed me up. Like so badly. And I love them with all my heart, but to speak my truth would to just be like to really say that it did affect me. And again there’s a better way of doing things. I mean I at least got to the Olympics you know? So yeah.
JESSICA: When they talked to you about weight, how did that make you feel?
MCKAYLA: Well realistically that’s how they were raised. You know? They had people that had it worse on them. They had it so hard. Arthur was telling me just the intensity they had. They weren’t allowed to talk or see people. They were stuck in really bad environments with mean coaches too. So for us, for them, looking at me it’s like wow she has it easy. She gets to go home. She has a cell phone. So you always have to kind of be like what did they mean there. I know they weren’t really, because they’re not trying to really hurt you, that’s not their intention. All they want at the end of the day is for you to succeed and do well. And sometimes they just say things in the wrong way. And I was in the mindset where I would do anything for them. I listened to them more than I would listen to my parents. Because I knew that they were the people that were really going to help me get to where I needed to go. So I think in a way, I’ve heard them talk about gymnasts like that. They just have it so easy, they just get to go home and eat dinner. Which is sad that that happened to them. But to mirror that, mirror your pain onto somebody else and take it out, that’s not how you’re going to build champions.
JESSICA: What’s so interesting to me is that you’ve got this
JESSICA: deep understanding for complexities of relationships and coaches and athlete dynamics down so well. You understand there are things that you’ve said that I think it takes adults years and years to really understand. And even when you’re talking about your coaches, it’s like you’re seeing them in a holistic way. Like they don’t mean it this way but this was my experience, but they’re just doing this because this is what they learned so they think it’s best.
JESSICA: It’s so impressive. And did you feel like you were parenting them as you were going along?
MCKAYLA: That’s so funny that you say that because I literally me and my mom were just talking about that the other day. When I broke my foot at Worlds before Japan, Arthur was freaking out. Like just he was just kind of stopped talking to me, ignored me, just which was really painful to be doing- I got first at the camp and just like that feeling and that energy and hugs and then to like me hurting my foot and then he could barely look at me, you know? I was terrified to get hurt. And I think that’s why I got hurt so often. Because I would walk into the gym just even just regular gym just praying that I wouldn’t get hurt. Which is so bad. It’s just I knew it was bad. I was like stop thinking about this. But I was so traumatized from that experience of being so loved to like, nothing.
JESSICA: All the sudden withdrawn
MCKAYLA: Yeah and I kind of had to motivate him. He would come to me and he was like I don’t know if he would talk to me. And I was like no Arthur I’m going to be ok. I’m going to be able to compete. My foot’s going to be ok. And yeah it just so I was, that was always me. And that becomes so mentally just exhausting. And physically when you already have just something broken and you’re just reminding somebody I’m going to be ok instead of the other way around. You’re going to be ok, we’re going to do this. I don’t like talking about people in this sort of way. It doesn’t feel right to me. But it’s just, that is what happened. And I think it happens for a lot of athletes, that you just, it hurts when you’re not really cared about and somebody doesn’t motivate you when they’re
JESSICA: They withdraw their affection if you don’t perform.
JESSICA: So your worth is directly tied to how well you do
JESSICA: instead of just
MCKAYLA: And I think just the affection part. Like he still loved me and cared about me. But it was like he would just be like sitting in the corner. Like even Martha one time was like Arthur stop being a vampire. He was like hiding in the corner just couldn’t even look at anything. Like he was, I think it was that painful for him. Like it was like he didn’t want me to be hurt. And he had gymnasts in the past that got hurt too. And he told me one time, I’m cursed. I have gymnasts that get hurt right before meets. So to be kind of that on me, like was just like I really and I did. I did keep getting hurt. And then I felt like I really don’t want to do this to him. So I just felt so much pressure all the time to make him feel like I was taking that curse away from him. But it’s just like that’s his own thing that he kind of needs to let go.
JESSICA: How do you think they’re going to react when they watch this?
MCKAYLA: I don’t know. That’s still something that I just, I’m kind of just I walked into this interview just kind of ignoring that part. Because again, you can’t worry about what people are going to think. You can’t. And if I was I don’t think I would be here right now. And sorry for what I have to say if you don’t like it. But this is me, take it or leave it. That’s it. [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: That’s so good. There is a certain stigma that goes along with being- and I feel like you’re not being critical of gymnastics. You haven’t been critical of the sport itself. It’s sort of like how the system is run and some of the techniques your coaches
MCKAYLA: It’s like athletes in general. Like kind of just like things that we need to be informed about. It’s not so much your fault. It’s like hey let’s work on this for our country so we can win more medals. I hope that’s not the vibe that’s coming off right now that’s very blame-y, trying to say it’s all your fault, victim stuff. Because I respect them so much. Everything they’ve done. Because I can’t say that I’ve done better. I haven’t brought a team to the Olympics. I didn’t build USA Gymnastics you know? So again I don’t have experience with that. But I’m just saying what it was like for me to go through what I went through. And it’s as simple as that.
JESSICA: Do you think if there were some things that you would change right away, if you were going to work from the inside
JESSICA: Because you still love the sport, which you said
JESSICA: And you still want to be involved, what kind of things would you like to change so that people could stay longer, be healthy
JESSICA: And also not feel so guilty when it’s time to move on
MCKAYLA: Definitely first off is like when you get into gymnastics, knowing that it eventually it comes to an end. And that’s it’s not your whole life. And that’s perfectly fine. And that I’d probably go into the camp and really change the food there and make it more real. Maybe make a different spot where the gymnasts can eat so we don’t have to eat next to our coaches. Because we don’t want to eat when we’re with them. And we just walk out early because it’s not worth eating with them so we just don’t eat. And then just having maybe a nutritionist come in and really get somebody the right supplements, check their body, what are they missing, what are the nutrients they’re not getting, why do they crave this food so much? It’s because they’re not getting enough this. So you know you always have to keep transforming and getting better and better and you can’t just be like oh we’re good here. It’s like no the world’s evolving, you have to keep evolving, I have to keep evolving or we just get stuck.
JESSICA: Had an episode a couple of shows ago about Marvin Sharp and the abuse scandal. And we had a couple of experts on. And one of them talked about, she’s a psychologist, she talked about the reason that you put children in sports is to make them better people and teach them life lessons. Do you feel like the USA Gymnastics program, the elite program, is missing part of that part of sport?
MCKAYLA: I think in life you can take lessons from anything. I don’t think it’s their job to be like I’m going to teach these girls lessons. No this is a serious thing we’re here to make the Olympic team. I just think they need to take care of their girls and really form a relationship with them and keep the girls healthy. And make them the best gymnasts that they can be. And instead of just training them to their death, try to prevent them from dying [LAUGHS] you know?
JESSICA: It’s the little things
MCKAYLA: It’s the little things in life
JESSICA: Keep them from dying yes. So let’s talk about the new chapter. What is the daily life like for you? Have you, I assumed you’ve graduated from high school now yes?
JESSICA: Yay. Have you thought about going to college or music school or doing
MCKAYLA: Right now I kind of am in a music school. I’m in a music process with artist development and just learning a lot of different instruments and piano and just music theory. And really just finding who I am and who I want to be instead of just being like I just want to put out a song because I can. Because I can, but that’s not what I want. I want this music to be true to who I am and speak through to many people. Because that’s what I’m making it. So college-wise I always knew that I was never going to do gymnastics for college, which is funny. Because girls would be like I’m going to go here and I would be like yeah I’m going to be an actress. Like I just always knew that. And people would just be like they looked at that like I was going to be a stripper. Like I was just not I didn’t conform. And people literally looked down on me but I kept just being like yeah it’s just not for me. Just that normal schedule life just I’m so done with it. I’m just like I want to do things that are just freeing and just maybe one day when I’m 40 I’ll go and get my Bachelors degree in something. But not for now. For now I just want to, I missed a lot of my younger years, and I just kind of want to take it in.
JESSICA: You definitely earned it
MCKAYLA: Thank you
JESSICA: For sure, for sure. And I have something here that I think is something else that you’re working on.
JESSICA: Can we discuss?
MCKAYLA: Yes, my leotard line
MCKAYLA: So that’s something that I’ve wanted to do forever because I’ve always been a girl that’s obsessed with being comfortable. So basically I’m trying to make my own line of something that I really feel is still hitting the stylish point and also being comfortable. And also just feeling like wow I look really good right now.
MCKAYLA: Just kind of like that. And so we’ve designed a couple just to begin.
MCKAYLA: I finally have time to do things like this
MCKAYLA: You know?
JESSICA: Explore all your other talents
MCKAYLA: Right exactly
JESSICA: Yeah. I have to say I really, I’ve seen these designs and some of your other designs
MCKAYLA: Yeah there’s another, we made a lot of them so
JESSICA: And I thought they were amazing and creative and original.
MCKAYLA: Yeah, see this one is more for like we’ve been looking at fabrics and different things and really talking about stuff like that. My idea of a perfect leotard is you can go to the mall after. Like because I would do that sometimes super chalky. To buy
JESSICA: Yeah who hasn’t gone to the grocery store after
MCKAYLA: a present for somebody, exactly. Like wow I look like a complete loser in this sparkly pink leotard. And I’m like 20.
JESSICA: The scrunchie
MCKAYLA: Oh my god the scrunchie. That even tops it. That’s just like, who am I. It just doesn’t make sense. When you feel good in something it makes you better so I just intend to make things that help people feel good.
JESSICA: So do you have, are you working with anyone right now in production? Are you looking for
MCKAYLA: We’re trying to find somebody who’s the right fit to help me make it. So because that’s really important to find all the right fabrics and people. And the people to help make it the dream that you want it to be.
MCKAYLA: So we’re being very specific about that. But so no, that’s the answer.
JESSICA: Not yet
JESSICA: Oh I think there’s going to be a bidding war
MCKAYLA: Oh gosh
JESSICA: Your name and leotards
MCKAYLA: That’s cool I’d be down for that.
JESSICA: Yes yes I think so. I want to thank you so much for being on the show.
MCKAYLA: No thank you, really, it means a lot to me to just be able to say all this stuff and talk non stop and just be annoying and just like really just get out everything that I need to say.
JESSICA: Yeah that’s the thing
MCKAYLA: It was needed for me, yeah
JESSICA: And that’s why I wanted to create this show, so that we can have gymnasts have more than just
MCKAYLA: A place to speak. Wow, thank you for doing that.
JESSICA: So thank you so much and I wish you the best of luck
MCKAYLA: Thank you
JESSICA: in the next chapter. I’m Jessica, and you can find us every week. We do the podcast GymCastic at GymCastic.com. And what’s your website so that they can follow you?
MCKAYLA: mckaylamaroney.com. And McKayla Maroney on Twitter and Instagram and whatever. And thank you again for listening. It means the world to me. If you’ve gotten through this far, just from the bottom of my heart thank you. I love you all. Peace and love. Thanks.
JESSICA: Thank you so much to McKayla for choosing us for this interview. We started this show because we wanted gymnastics to be treated like a normal sport. To get the same press coverage all year long, every year that the NFL, the basketball, the hockey, all those sports get. This is not a four year sport, we are not four year fans. We’re here all the time just like the gymnasts are training all the time. And we try to honor the hard work of these athletes with a weekly show year round. We do more than 42 episodes a year, for free, and we want to keep it that way. And we just want to see the sport grow. And we love gymnastics. And that’s why we do this show. And we wanted to create a place for the athletes to just come and have in depth conversations about whatever’s important to them. I just want to thank you guys so much for your support, all the new Club Gym Nerd members because you guys help us pay the bills and it really matters. It makes a huge difference to us. Thank you so much. And to TumblTrak. This month we are having a tshirt design contest. The winner will be announced next week. Check out our website for details on that. We’re also giving away a legends, the Cloud and Victory legends sweatshirt to one of our members this month. It’s glorious. I love it so much. I don’t want to part with it but I’m going to send it to one of you guys. You want to find out more about the amazing people who make this show happen, check out the About page at gymcastic.com. Until next week, we will be back and we will talk all about the American Cup and do a little preview. So we’ll see you guys next week. Thank you so much for listening. See you guys next week.