Olympic medalist gymnast and noted Rihanna fan McKayla Maroney helped carry her team to gold at the London Olympics this summer after pulling off what is widely regarded as the most precise vault ever done. She's currently traveling with the rest of the Fierce Five as part of the Kelloggs Tour of Gymnastic Champions, which will make a stop this evening at Bankers Life.
Maroney's not 100% healthy = really, not even 75% when you consider her broken toe and fractured tibia. She's hanging in on the tour, however, and will appear to sign autographs and make one of her famous faces (we're counting on it) this evening.
I was so sad when I read that you had a broken leg.
I have a fractured — well technically it's not fractured anymore — I have a fractured tibia and a broken toe in a couple different places. I got surgery on that too. I'm healing up and getting better, so, you know!
I've read a lot about how girls who are injured push through the Olympics, or get injured afterwards. Have you found that to be common on your team?
Well. I don't know. Even before the Olympics I had a broken toe. I got there and I was in London for two days and my toe was already broken. If I did anything really it would re-break. I didn't know at the time that it was broken because I would just deal with the pain. It was really — the bone just really snapped and it got really bad. I got into the Olympics already needing an intense surgery. I also had a fracture at the time that is healing right now. My legs were kind of done-zo at that time. I was doing bar and I was dancing and that kind of stuff. So, when I was doing bars and I did a dismount, my tibia got hurt. I had to get surgery on that and then I ended up doing my toe. I think all of the rest of the girls are pretty healthy. I'm just the special one. I was hurt at the Olympics though, so that's why [I had to have surgery.]
You are widely recognized as the best vaulter in the world. Vault takes place on such a short timeline. How can you describe those few seconds to us — for someone who has never done it before, what does it feel like?
I don't even know how long a vault is — like 15 seconds. One second you're at one at one end of the runway and the next second you're done at the other either on your butt or your feet. It's definitely a big thrill when you're running as fast as you can towards a stationary object that you'll hopefully be going super high off of. It's definitely a very interesting event. It's one of my favorites because you can use all of your power. On beam, you have to be more graceful. Vault is all power. It feels like you're flying when you're in the air, so that's my favorite.
I spent a summer in London studying and I loved it so much. What was your favorite thing about the city?
My favorite thing was just hanging out in the [Olympic] Village with the team. It was beautiful when we got there. People were saying, “Wow, you literally brought the sun.” The weather there is crazy and we got really lucky. The sun was out all the time. I loved going to workouts and sitting on the bus and looking at the scenery.
After we were done competing we went on the London eye and walked around. It's really beautiful there!
Do you have any Olympic Village gossip for us that you can share?
Any gossip about all the athletes together? I heard it's really fun.
Us gymnasts, we really stay out of it. The whole entire time we were just with us five. We were there to get a job done, so not until after [competing] did we even go to the cafeteria. That was a big deal for us. We are pretty tight and safe, so we didn't do anything crazy. The craziest thing we did was walking around, us five together. There was Olympic rings in the Village and we climbed up to the top of them, really high, and sat on them. That's the craziest thing we did!
Obviously you've had an Internet explosion over your “Not Impressed” face. What's the funniest thing you've seen your face pasted on to? What's the worst?
The funniest one for me — I really like Lizzie McGuire. That was like my favorite show growing up. The little girl that was in Lizzie McGuire, they put me next to here and we were both doing the not impressed face because she does the not impressed face too. The other one I like is Charlie Brown. It's not even my face, it's like a cartoon.
The worst thing is when they say, McKayla, not impressed by — I don't even know. It's ridiculous. They put me with Romney or whatever. Just not impressed with ... . silly stuff.
Now that you're kind of on a forced break because of the medical stuff and the end of the Olympics, you have time to think about what you want to do next. Do you plan to go to the Olympics in 2016?
Right now because I”m healing up, it's hard to say what I want to do, because i'm not healed yet. I can say that I want to go to the next Olympics, which is definitely true, I do want to go to the next Olympics, but at this moment in time, I”m not training. So I can't say it and mean it at the same time. But it's definitely a dream of mine. I'm not done.
What is your involvement on the tour right now?
Today I woke up super early in the morning and went to a grocery store and signed Kelloggs' boxes with the Fierce Five on it. I do a lot of stuff like that, pre-show and after-show autographs and meeting people. Everybody's really excited before the show. I tell them what's going to happen and they get really excited. I walk at the end and wave with the team and we clap around. It's a really good moment to at least be out of the floor. I did two Kelloggsshows. It's good to come back and do a little piece of it because I worked so hard to learn all the dances. I want to be there for my fans and have that moment.
What was the moment like when you walked into the Closing Ceremonies with the entire team?
It was so surreal. There was confetti falling and fireworks going and a huge stage. We were so excited. We were in our crazy little outfits. The Olympics were over, we finished our job and got our gold medal and my silver medal. We were just like, “Wow, it's over.” It was finalizing. It's done. Crazy.
Are your parents on the tour with you right now?
No, they are not. Nobody's parents are here, but if [the tour] is in the place where they are, they hang out with us and we get to see our parents for a little bit. I'm not in California for any more stops, so I'm not with my family.
I was just thinking about how your dad was the quarterback at Purdue and thinking that it would be fun for him to come back.
He would love that!
You're so young — all of you are so young — and you've achieved at such a high level. You could go so many different directions and places. Obviously, so many different Olympian gymnasts have. Where would you ultimately like to see yourself when you're 40 or 50?
I would like to see myself go to another Olympics or at least another World Championships. I'm really not done yet, and I'm really young. Gymnastics for me is still fun for me, and it's important and I love to do it.
After that, my goal is to become an actress. I've wanted to do that my whole entire life, but it's kind of like gymnastics. You're doing it the entire day, so you have to choose one or the other. But I would love to do that, be the actor. I have other goals too. I would like to be a movie director. I have other ideas for that kind of stuff. I would love to be an actress, be a mom. I want to love what I do.
I know that you're showing up in your first role on Hart of Dixie soon.
I'm super excited for that. It was my first acting role ever!
What is your dream show to appear on?
I have a lot of different ideas. I don't have a dream show, if anything I want to be in a movie and playing a character. I don't know what kind of character I want to be, I can do anything, really.
If you were going to direct a movie, what kind of movie would you make — right now?
I know that I want to make a Christmas movie.
Aw! Did you get to do any shopping in London?
I did. I'm wearing these special leggings right now that I got at Topshop. It's really only in London and NY and they just put one in Vegas. It's a really cool store — five stories. All the girls just had a bunch of fun.
All right, McKayla. Last question. If you had to give advice to a young gymnast who is talented enough to possibly go to the Olympics, what would your advice be? Dealing with media, dealing with the stress, dealing with it all.
The most important thing is to stay true to yourself. No matter what the media does to you — I obviously have experience in that with the not impressed thing. Especially after the Olympics you're always being watched and judged and everyone wants to be a good role model.
I really truly love when little girls come up to me and ask me stuff about that. And all the time, I will say to follow your dreams. If you're doing what you love and doing what yo