Madison Kocian at the Olympics in Rio. Photograph: YouTube

Olympic champion Madison Kocian does not close the door on an elite comeback, NBC Sports reports.

The Texas-native, 20, has had mesmerising past twelve months. In July 2016 she was selected to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she helped her team win gold, and gained an individual silver medal on the uneven bars. After Rio, Kocian moved to college at UCLA, and became one of the Bruins’ most prominent and successful gymnast.

When gymnasts move to college, they normally close the door on their elite career. Kocian, however, has still not decided whether she wants to train for the next Olympics or stick with college.

‘I know I have accomplished so much already’, said Kocian, who, in addition to her two Olympic medals, is also a three-time World champion. ‘It’s just a matter of if I feel like I need to do anything else before closing that door. It’s still open. I could stop in college after next year and start training [elite], or finish my four years in college and continue my life’.

One thing, however, is certain. Kocian is happy that she did not turn pro, therefore preserving her college eligibility.  I wanted to experience the college student-athlete life and be a part of that different world’, Kocian explained. ‘The hardest part for me was after the Olympics, the media engagements and appearances. I couldn’t get paid for that’.

Kocian was the only member of the Final Five not to turn pro. Teammate Laurie Hernandez was the last one to turn pro, when the team was already in Rio. Keeping her amateur status, Kocian was able to compete for the UCLA Bruins. Olympic champion Kyla Ross, who won gold with the team in London 2012, also kept her college eligibility, and the two Olympic champions are now competing at UCLA together.


Kocian explained that moving to college was a big change, but that she has settled down now. ‘It was something different, a totally new experience that I was just getting used to’, she said. But now ‘I found my rhythm.’

The hardest part of competing in college this past season, Kocian argued, was injuries. The Olympic champion suffered a small subluxation (partial dislocation) on an uneven bars release move at the Olympic Trials, but kept it quiet and managed through it. After the Olympics, however, she did not have time to rest, and competed for UCLA with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff.

‘That was the hardest thing going through the season’, Kocian said. ‘Nothing’s going to really heal the tear unless you do surgery. We were trying every other option’. Kocian, however, wants to avoid surgery if possible. She is now taking summer off to allow her body to finally rest.

Despite the injuries, Kocian had a very successful freshman year at UCLA. She competed in the all around in twelve of UCLA’s fourteen meets, and won half of them. At the end of the regular season, Kocian was awarded four NCAA All-American honours (all around, vault, beam and floor). And at the NCAA Championships, she finished seventh in the all around competition, and helped her team finish fourth at the Super Six.

Her goals for the years to come are to win as many All-American honours as possible and win a National title for UCLA. The Olympic champion seems ready to shine again: ‘I found my rhythm’.


By Talitha Ilacqua
Axact

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