McKayla Maroney began her Olympics with three tangible goals and one continuing dream. Following her fall in the Day 9 vault final, Maroney should be remembered for what went right in London, not what could have been.
Earlier these Games, Maroney accomplished her team goals. Added to the Olympics team solely for her vaulting prowess, she hit two amazing vaults in the qualifying round.
Those vaults placed her in the event final, but more importantly they helped the U.S. claim a commanding win and establish themselves as the team to beat heading into team finals.
Her qualifying vaults were huge for the U.S. But they pale to the one she landed in team finals, both in terms of quality and importance.
After landing what appeared to be a perfect vault that resulted in the biggest single score for any routine these London Games, USA Today shared the view of U.S. coach John Geddert.
"McKayla Maroney's (vault) was an absolute moonshot."
"They should rename the vault. They should call it the 'Maroney' because it's a different league. She does it so much higher and faster and cleaner and more dynamic than the normal human."
Before the Olympics, she shared her main goal, and it was all about the team. And Team USA's margin of victory was so large that no single apparatus gave them the victory, but one can't ignore the amazing head start Maroney gave them.
With the U.S. the first to perform their vault routines, Maroney's score of 16.233 was an important factor in the Americans leaving the apparatus with nearly a two-point lead. It undoubtedly also played a big part in pressuring other teams with added urgency. The Russians seemed to crack under the pressure, particularly on the floor.
Maroney's Olympic competition certainly ended on a sour note. Her second vault in the vault final left her sitting instead of standing and posing. She had to settle for the silver, just missing on her last objective in London. Sandra Izbasa of Romania won the gold, while Russia's Maria Paseka took third.
It might be easy for fans to accept the image of Maroney sitting on the padded floor as their lasting impression of her these 2012 Olympics, but that would be a disservice to these Games and the value she brought to the team as a whole.
When her team needed her she provided the best vault in the history of women's competition. She helped four other gymnasts claim the team title, which was the ultimate goal for the women.
Maroney earned the respect of being remembered for what she gave the team. For those wanting an image to cling to, I'd offer the one of her standing on the podium with her silver medal. She was obviously disappointed, but seemingly coming to terms with her still-magnificent accomplishments and proudly representing her country.
As for her other dream...it may leave us all with an altogether different picture of McKayla Maroney. She wants to be an action-adventure movie star and could see herself in a role similar to that of Angelina Jolie in Salt and other stunt-heavy action flicks.