McKayla Maroney is all set to compete for gold at the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, which take place Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.
The 17-year-old star, who travels to Europe alongside teammates Simone Biles, Kyla Ross and Brenna Dowell will be looking to put the face-scrunching pain of last year’s Olympic silver behind her with a dominating performance for Team USA.
Maroney secured gold medals in the team and vault competitions at Tokyo’s 2011 World Championships, but how can the lively teenager ensure a place atop the podium now that she faces increased pressure from both the media and onlooking fans?
Here’s her guide to victory.
Time to Take the Lead
Although originally touted for a stint on the vault and floor, Maroney has been promoted to an all-around competitor in the run up to the event, as reported by Gymnastike.
The world championships only permits three of each team’s four gymnasts to take part, so the decision to push Maroney into an all-around contender relegates Dowell, who was originally selected to take part as a bars and beam specialist.
While this is particularly harsh on Dowell—who has looked sharp in training—Maroney now has the chance to take the lead in a team that will also see Biles and Ross tackle the task of landing all-around glory.
Maroney has decent experience at the top level, but her performance in Antwerp has the opportunity to outline her as a team leader heading toward the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
As reported by Examiner, this year’s competition has seen a number of top contenders plagued with injury, illness and fatigue, so Maroney’s final qualification chances are better than ever.
If she is able to maintain pace with her teammates and excel further than the events she was originally planned to specialise in, this quickly developing quartet have a new leader to look up to during an important time for Team USA.
Maroney’s unending Twitter presence needs to die down during the championships.
With nearly half a million followers at the time of writing, many of whom will wait on her every word, this is going to be extremely difficult. For the sake of her chances, the constant Instagram posts must be limited.
This year’s championships offer a huge opportunity, but now that Maroney is competing across all disciplines, she needs to focus like never before. The charismatic gymnast has had three surgeries since London 2012, as reported by Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic Wire, and has nowhere to hide if things go wrong.
While it is useful to remain a chirpy online presence away from competition time, Maroney needs to give her body plenty of respect in Belgium. Only 100 percent focus will do, and that starts with turning off the Twittersphere for a few days.
Welcome Competition within Team USA
Maroney’s quick switch to all-around will be met with enthusiasm from some, despair from others. Dowell has trained avidly to take part in the competition, but her disappointment reveals a team that is continually pushing each other to improve.
Both Biles and Ross are well-equipped to return home with gold. Maroney’s one-time career-defining vault is no longer the potent weapon it once was and needs to be perfect in Antwerp.
Biles’ Amanar and Cheng combination on the vault would see her score higher than Maroney if performed properly. While North Korea’s Hong Un-Jong should also challenge on the vault, Maroney’s fiercest competition will come from within Team USA.
This is by no means a bad thing. Maroney has not competed in bars and beam since the Olympic trials, so she must utilise the level of performance set by colleagues who are more experienced in this area.
If Maroney can do this effectively, focus and take on the role of leader, she will shock the Belgian crowd with an all-around display that would undoubtedly be the highlight of her career so far.