Maggie Nichols' ascendance on the national gymnastics scene took a major leap two weeks ago when she captured a bronze medal on the floor exercise while helping Team USA to a team gold medal at the World Championships. With the 2016 Summer Olympics on the horizon, Nichols, a senior at Roseville High, chatted with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand this week at her gymnastics club, Twin City Twisters in Champlin:
Q When you put in long days of training and it culminates in what you just accomplished at the World Championships, what is that feeling like?
A On a hard day, you just look back on that time you were on podium. It's like, 'Wow, that's what all the hard work was for." It makes you feel happy inside that all your hard work is paying off.
Q What's a normal day for you during the school year?
A I wake up at like 6 or 6:30 and get ready for school. Then I'm at school from about 8 to 1. Then I head over to the gym, and I'm there for about five hours. Then I go home and do homework, eat dinner. That's the routine.
Q How do your friends look at your life compared to theirs?
A My best friend does gymnastics as well, so she understands. But some of my other friends don't really get it. They're like, 'Why can't you just skip the gym and go do this?' It's a different life.
Q You dislocated your left kneecap last year, requiring a six-month recovery. How were you able to come back and put up the performance you had at the World Championships?
A It kind of just showed how motivated I was during that injury and how hard I worked to get past that and come back even stronger than before. … When it happened, I was like, 'Why? Why did that happen to me?' But I think God had a plan for me, and it really did help me in the long run. I had time to think about what I wanted and how I needed to improve.
Q I was looking at your Twitter account, where you go by the handle @MagsGotSwag12. When I look at posters around this gym, it seems like "swagger" is a thing with you. Where does that come from?
A My friends always call me "Swags" or "Swaggy." That's kind of where it started, and then people in the gymnastics world started calling me that.
Q Do you have a lot of swagger and a big personality?
A Yes. My parents are really outgoing and social. I like being social and kind of crazy at times. … During competition, I really like to dance around if there's music playing and wave to fans in the crowd. It helps me calm down and gets me pumped for the competition.
Q Everybody keeps talking about the Olympics as the next big thing. I know it's a long way off, but now that you're through the World Championships do you allow yourself to think about that possibility more?
A I don't like to think about it too much. I just like to take it one step at a time and do the best that I can do. If I don't make that team, there will be a reason. I just want to know at the end that I did my best and have no regrets. But I think about it once in a while.