Olympic gymnastics trials "an amazing experience" for Nichols

LITTLE CANADA, Minn. -- Maggie Nichols took a moment on Sunday night after she scored a 14.900 on the balance beam at the Olympic trials -- her fourth and final successfully completed routine.The Little Canada native looked around at the deafenin...

Maggie Nichols of Little Canada, Minn., performs during the floor exercise in the women’s gymnastics U.S. Olympic team trials at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday. Kyle Terada / USA Today Sports

LITTLE CANADA, Minn. - Maggie Nichols took a moment on Sunday night after she scored a 14.900 on the balance beam at the Olympic trials - her fourth and final successfully completed routine.
The Little Canada native looked around at the deafening crowd, which packed the sold-out SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., and even made floor routine music inaudible, and considered what she’d just accomplished.
“I think I was in shock,” said Nichols, a 2016
Roseville Area High School graduate. “I looked around and I was like ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ It is so amazing and such an honor to be there.”
Nichols finished sixth in the all-around in a field featuring the country’s best gymnasts, but she was in tears less than an hour later when national team coordinator Martha Karolyi named the five members of the U.S. Olympic team and three alternates, and Nichols wasn’t included.
“I don’t really know how to explain the emotions that I was feeling,” Nichols said. “I was very disappointed that my name was not called. I was confused, but I knew there was a reason for why I didn’t get picked. I support the committee’s decision and everything like that.”
It wasn’t a tragedy, Nichols said.
“I know that God has a plan for me and bigger and better things in my future,” she said. “I did shed a few tears, but they were both happy and sad tears. ... I did have a very good meet on Sunday, and I’m just so happy I ended on such a great note.”
Such an ending didn’t appear likely just 12 weeks earlier, when Nichols tore her meniscus in her right knee - less than two years after dislocating a kneecap.
For weeks she endured pain as she pushed herself to regain strength and form. Two weeks prior to trials she had what she considered a disappointing performance in the balance beam and uneven bars at the P&G Championships. She was quickly fading back from the competition before she put forth an Olympics-worthy effort at trials.
“The training at my gym was so hard and ... my knee did hurt a lot, and it just took a lot of mental strength and also physical strength that I had to do,” Nichols said. “I’m just really happy with how far I came in that short amount of time.”
If Nichols hadn’t suffered her most recent injury, she likely would have made the Olympic team. Nichols was the only American to compete in all four events at the world championships in 2015, helping the country to gold while also earning individual bronze on floor.
“I feel like maybe things would have been different if I didn’t hurt myself, but I don’t know, I haven’t really thought too much about it,” Nichols said. “It has crossed my mind, but it did happen for a reason. I can’t go back and change it.”
Nichols, 18, could theoretically make a run at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - 22-year-old Aly Raisman made this year’s team - but isn’t planning on it.
“My body is kind of fragile and it’s very tired, and I can get hurt very often,” Nichols said. “So (retiring from elite competition is) a better decision for me.”
Sunday’s performance ended Nichols’ elite level career. She plans to take it easy for a while as she allows her body to recoup before ramping up training to prepare for her college career at Oklahoma. After her Sooners career, Nichols hopes to be a nurse.
Nichols will watch the Rio Olympics in August. She’s friends with all of the girls competing for the U.S. and has high hopes they’ll win gold.
“I’ll probably be
Facetiming with them when they’re in the village and things like that,” Nichols said. “I’ll definitely be watching and cheering them on.”
Nichols received national attention in recent months for the daily inspirational tweets she’d send out to her thousands of followers. She continued the tradition Monday, tweeting a photo that read, “God’s plan will always be greater and more beautiful than all of your disappointments.”
While Nichols’ elite-level gymnastics career didn’t quite reach the pinnacle she was hoping for, she’s grateful for the journey.
“I’ve gone through so many injuries and hard times, and I’ve been through so many good times and I’ve learned so many incredible life lessons I wouldn’t have been able to learn without my elite career,” Nichols said. “I’ve traveled the world, I’ve taken away so many things that I’ve always have in my head and memories. Words can’t even describe the things I’ve been through, and it’s just, looking back it’s such an amazing experience, and I’m so thankful I was able to experience all of that.”

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