McKayla Maroney Steps Away from Gymnastics Competition, Is Not Retiring

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2016

McKayla Maroney competes on the floor exercise during the U.S. women's national gymnastics championships in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

While McKayla Maroney's days of competing in gymnastics are over, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist attempted to clarify her status Wednesday.  

In an interview with podcast GymCastic (h/t the Associated Press, via TeamUSA.org), the 20-year-old revealed she is stepping away from competition rather than officially retiring: "I don't want anybody to think that McKayla is retiring. I don't even want people to use that word ... this is something I'm always going to be a part of it. I'm never leaving this sport."

The California native also reiterated on Twitter her displeasure with the word "retiring" to describe her status:

While Maroney did take team gold in 2012 as part of the "Fierce Five," she won silver in the vault competition despite being a heavy favorite, which led to her famous "not impressed" facial expression that ultimately went on to take the Internet by storm, as seen in this photo courtesy of NBC Sports:

NBC Sports @NBCSports

Just. Not. Impressed. @McKaylaMaroney was not happy with a silver medal in London. https://t.co/VtB3jv9Ikp https://t.co/AZVJvwDJMT

Although Maroney attempted to make a run at competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, she admitted on the podcast (h/t Avery Thompson of HollywoodLife.com) that injuries and overall poor health took a major toll on her:

Since October of 2014, I would go back to the gym and then burn myself out for 3 months. And I did that probably until a couple months ago. And I would go to doctor after doctor, and I got so many blood tests ... I was so unhealthy and tired I couldn't get out of bed. I got depressed.

Sometimes it's the thing that you need to let go that's really holding you back from being healthy. I'm just ready to put my worth and value into something else, and I'm ready to be excited about something else.

Maroney didn't describe the distinction between stepping away from competition and retiring, but she seemingly left the door open to take part in exhibition events rather than cutting herself off from the sport altogether.

While Maroney's decision hurts Team USA gymnastics in the vault, there are still high hopes for the squad in 2016 due to the presence of three-time all-around world champion Simone Biles and 2012 all-around Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.

It isn't uncommon for competitive careers to end at a young age in women's gymnastics, and while Maroney is part of that trend, her place in the history of the sport is cemented due to her golden performance and memorable expression.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.