Recent Retirements and Not So Recent Not Retirements
Analysis of recent (and some not so recent…) elite career conclusions.
McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and each strongly contributed to the team gold medal. Despite the similarity in their Olympic achievement, the two gymnasts competed with extremely different styles and had extremely different career trajectories. One burst onto the scene with one amazingly impressive skill on one event and had a relatively short career while the other competed on an high level for many years but competed less flashy, clean, safe routines guaranteed to stick (#VGA #StickIt). The two Olympic gold medalists subsequent retirements mirrored their opposing gymnastics styles.
Kyla Ross entered the elite ranks in 2009 and immediately began earning first and second place in the all around, including at the 2009 CoverGirl Classic and Visa Championships, 2010 Visa Championships, 2011 CoverGirl Classic, and 2011 Visa Championships. Kyla appeared on the elite scene without flashy skills but solid and consistent gymnastics that put her on the top of the rankings. Kyla began competing in international competitions in Brazil at the 2009 Junior Pan American Championships and continued to compete internationally at least once a year with strong results.
Kyla became a senior in 2012 and placed second at the US Secret Classic and fourth at Visa Championships and fifth at Olympic Trials. The selection committee named Kyla to the 2012 Olympic team for her consistency and strength on bars and beam. She competed on both events during the team final, earned a gold medal, and then a few month later began her sophomore year of high school.
Kyla remained one of the top gymnasts in the United States and in the world, earning multiple World Championships medals, including the 2013 World Championships all around, beam and bars silver medals, the gold medal in the team final in the 2014 World Championships and all around bronze medal. Many gymnastics fans called upon Kyla to upgrade her routines but her trademark consistency and clean routines allowed her to overcome her relative lack of difficulty.
Kyla unfortunately began to display cracks in her usually extremely tough competitive exterior in the 2015 season. She fell on her new Bhardwaj on uneven bars at the 2015 US Secret Classic as well as on a handstand pirouette. Kyla also sat her double front dismount on both days of competition at the 2015 P&G Championships. Kyla struggled not only with competitive upgrades but retaining her existing skills as well as endurance. Kyla demonstrated maturity, a strong sense of intelligence and introspection when she recused herself from World Championships selection camp. Kyla understood that in her current state she was not in shape to attempt to make a World Championships Team. She decided to give her body a break instead of breaking her body attempting and possibly failing to make a team.
A few months later, Kyla quietly announced via social media that she would no longer compete in elite gymnastics and had decided to focus on her upcoming collegiate gymnastics career. Kyla again demonstrated maturity and intelligence in the decision to compete for four more years rather than compete for one more year that might have burned her out prior to enrolling in college. Additionally, she made a wise decision to earn a degree which will open many doors for her in the future.
McKayla Maroney trained with Kyla Ross for many years prior to switching coaches and gyms and have completely different gymnastics styles. McKayla has huge and sometimes worrison skills, such as her one and a half through to double tuck which always seemed like it would land out of bounds. McKayla made an immediate splash on the elite scene in 2009 with her huge Amanar but her other events needed a strong amount of polish, unlike her friend Kyla, who always competed extremely cleanly.
McKayla made the National Team in 2010 and competed at the Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. She earned first place on vault, floor, and assisted in a first place finish for the team. McKayla continued to earn first place on vault in all the competitions she entered, including 2011 World Championships.
McKayla’s vault dominance lead to her status as the heavy favorite to win the 2012 Olympic vault gold medal. She performed both of her vaults with excellent form and had never had a mistake in competition for many years leading up to the Olympics. McKayla’s vault in the team final earned one of the highest execution scores of the quadrennium and caused season commentator Tim Daggett to shout in amazement. The vault remains one of the strongest Amanar’s ever performed. Despite her literally jaw dropping vault in the team event, McKayla had a very uncharacteristic mistake during the event final. She landed her second vault but then slipped and fell onto her bottom and the fall shocked McKayla and gym fans alike. McKayla earned the silver medal regardless of the major mistake but she had been all but guaranteed the gold medal.
McKayla faced numerous injuries both during and after the Olympic Games and had multiple surguries but returned to elite competition in 2013 and once again earned the World Championships vault gold medal. Maroney’s fall in 2012 caused the Earth to spin off it’s axis and her reclaiming her title as best vaulter in the world in 2013 resulted in the Earth righting itself and once again spinning on the correct axis. The sea creatures who had been affected by the funky tides due to the incorrect spinning of the planet give many thanks for McKayla for earning the gold medal.
Maroney continued to face injuries and health issues following the 2013 season but maintained that she would return to competition. She remained active on social media and released YouTube videos discussing her mental and physical health but she did not reappear at National Team training camps nor in any training videos suggesting she had become healthy enough to attempt to compete again.
In late 2015, Gymcastic released a teaser video for an interview with McKayla which built suspense and buzz around the gymnast. The podcast released the interview in full a few weeks later during which McKayla discussed her elite experiences and the circumstances that lead to the end of her competitive career. Maroney’s personal account detailed many of the negative aspects of elite gymnastics and sparked conversation about the treatment of gymnasts, including their mental health, coaching styles, and conditions at National Team training camps.
Maroney also discussed her future both in and out of gymnastics. She wishes to serve as a spokesperson for gymnasts and also has been taking steps to enter the music business. McKayla also requested that people refrain from using the word “retire” when discussing the conclusion of her career as an effort to affirm her continued involvement with the sport outside of competition. McKayla’s extensive video strongly contrasts Kyla’s quiet Instagram post thanking everyone for their support similarly to the way in which McKayla’s career featuring a breakout event and extremely strong skill contrasts Kyla’s extensive but not particularly splashy elite career.
Maddie Desch, from Kansas City Missouri, was a member of the USA National Team for five years before recently announcing her retirement from elite gymnastics. Maddie will compete at the University of Alabama and hopefully she will have time to recover from the injuries that have plagued her career. Maddie, who trains at Great American Gymnastics Express, began competing elite in 2010 and qualified to the Visa National Championships The next year she made the Junior National Team. Maddie first represented the United States at the 2012 Trofeo Citta di Jesolo and competed in Italy again in 2014 and 2015. Maddie placed fifth all around and first place with the team at the 2014 Pan American Championships in Missassauga, Canada. Maddie served as the alternate to the gold medal winning World Championship team in Nanning, China, in October 2014.. Maddie competed in Jesolo in early 2015 and finished in ninth place in the all around. She had another successful meet at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada. She earned the silver medal in the all around, team gold medal, and missed out on a medal on floor with a fourth place finish. The future University of Alabama gymnast competed in the first day of the 2015 P&G Championships but pulled out of the second day of competition, citing a back injury. Maddie announced her retirement from elite gymnastics on May 29, 2016 and again mentioned a nagging back injury. Hopefully without the intense training schedule of elite gymnastics, Maddie can properly heal and have a strong career in Tuscaloosa.
Megan Skaggs of Marietta, Georgia began competing elite in 2012 as a junior and recently announced her retirement from the highest level of competition. Megan was named to the Senior National Team in 2015 and made her international debut at the Trofeo Citta di Jesolo where she finished eighth in the all around. Megan represented the United States at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, where she competed on all four events during the team final/individual qualification round and helped the team earn first place. Megan finished in fifth place during qualifications but did not compete in the all around final due to the two per country rule. She qualified into the beam final and earned the silver medal with a solid routine consisting of a wolf turn, front aerial to Sissone, back handspring layout step out, side aerial, Johnson, side somi, and double pike. Megan upgraded her beam routine for the domestic season with an additional layout step out which she hit consistently at P&G Championships. In her final season as an elite gymnast, Megan competed a strong uneven bars routine with a great Jaegar and a solid Tkatchev to Pak combination. She also performed a double twisting Yurchenko on vault and an extremely powerful double Arabian on floor. Megan will continue her gymnastics career at the University of Florida where she could make great contributions on any event due to her strong foundation as an elite gymnast.