SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Three weeks after her Olympic dream appeared to be in tatters after she suffered a nasal fracture and mild concussion, smile was back on the face of vault specialist McKayla Maroney as she celebrated her selection for the London Games on Sunday.
Maroney, who returned to training only a week ago, was one of the five gymnasts who made the U.S. women’s Olympic team after two days of trials ended at a packed HP Pavilion.
The 16-year-old world vault champion performed superbly in her favourite discipline to get the nod from the USA Gymnastics selection committee, despite finishing seventh in the overall standings.
”This is the best feeling - it’s just so amazing,“ a teary-eyed Maroney told reporters. ”I‘m in shock right now. I think this will be the happiest I’ll ever be in my life.
“It’s so amazing just for all the hard times of that whole entire week and not even knowing if I was going be here today,” she added, referring to her accident on June 10 while warming up on floor for the finals of the U.S. national championships.
Maroney missed a landing in a triple twist, over-rotating to hit the floor with a sickening thud. She lay prostrate for several minutes before being taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with a broken nose and concussion.
Following subsequent tests, she was cleared to resume training and petitioned her way on to the U.S. national team to gain a spot in this week’s Olympic trials.
“It’s the absolute best feeling knowing that I trained so hard for this and all the hard things that I have accomplished and now to be on this team,” Maroney said.
“These girls are my best friends. My team mate Kyla Ross - we have been best friends since we were six years old so it’s just absolutely amazing to be going to the Olympics.”
Maroney, who won the vault as well as team gold at last year’s world championships in Tokyo, is renowned for her execution of the Amanar - a Yurchenko-entry vault followed by two-and-a-half twists in the air.
On Sunday, she thrilled the sell-out crowd of 17,526 at the HP Pavilion with her remarkable height on that move as she earned a best-of-the-night score of 15.950 on the apparatus.
“I knew that I needed to do my job on floor and vault but the most important thing for me was vault and I did that today,” Maroney smiled.
“I kind of had a little bit of a mess up on floor but I have only been training for a week so hopefully I can go home and get more consistent. I can’t wait for the Olympics.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Jose; editing by Amlan Chakraborty