Going into the 2017 NCAA championships, Oklahoma freshman Maggie Nichols seemed like the obvious choice to take home the all-around title. After all, she hadn't lost an all-around competition all season.
As Nichols entered her final rotation of the semifinals with a 0.124 lead, the Little Canada, MN, native needed better than a 9.876 on balance beam to secure the top score of her session--a mark she had eclipsed in 10 of her previous 11 balance beam routines.
From the beginning of her routine, Nichols was just a little bit off. On her final skill before her dismount--a punch front--the unthinkable happened.
Nichols came off the beam, dashing her title chances.
While she ended the semifinal in tears, Nichols knew she had one more night of competition to tackle for a team title.
I think you just need to take a deep breath and get back on and finish your routine like you didn't have a mistake.
SUPER SIX BOUND BABYYYYYY!!!! boomer..........SOONER— Maggie Nichols (@MagsGotSwag12) April 14, 2017
In the second rotation of the Super Six team finals, Nichols faced the apparatus that had tripped her up the day before. She opted to remove the punch front and nailed her routine. Her reaction after sticking her double tuck dismount was one of pure joy.
The result? Perfection for the seventh time in the 2017 season, her third on beam.
"It's just a huge honor for myself because I've been working so hard," Nichols said.
To get those 10s, it's like my hard work is paying off and also I'm helping out the team a lot too. It just feels good and is a great feeling.The transition between elite and college was its own challenge.
"It's a little bit different. It's not as serious as elite gymnastics is and you don't have to perform as hard of skills in college," Nichols said. "The challenges are little bit different because you're really striving to get a 10 on each event, which is pretty hard to do. It's not as challenging, but it's challenging in its own way."
She scored six perfect 10s leading up to the NCAA championships and completed the rare "Gym Slam" on March 4.
Nichols came into the 2017 NCAA season after a rollercoaster 2016. Once considered nearly a lock to head to Rio, she saw her Olympic hopes fade after a knee injury kept her from competing at full strength at both the P&G national championships and Olympic Trials. Nichols was left off the five-woman team and wasn't named one of the three alternates who traveled to Rio. She announced her retirement from elite gymnastics several days after the Olympic Trials. Then, it was off to Oklahoma where she says she fell in love with the sport again.
Through the entire experience, she has remained gracious and positive. Those who follow Nichols on social media may notice a daily motivational quote. Nichols started out pinning the quotes on Pinterest a few years ago. Last year, she began posting a quote each day.
193 | 366 pic.twitter.com/cgfiqnKnNo— Maggie Nichols (@MagsGotSwag12) July 11, 2016
"[W]hen I decided one year to post one every single day, I got a lot of positive comments," Nichols said, "and a lot of people commenting saying, 'Thank you, I really needed this today' and a lot of people enjoyed it. I just decided to keep doing it.
I love being positive and helping others with staying positive.
349 | 366 pic.twitter.com/5pO4x0iunb— Maggie Nichols (@MagsGotSwag12) December 14, 2016
As 2016 came to a close, she polled her fans for what her daily post should consist of in 2017. The winner? Reasons to be happy.
Reason to be happy | 6 |— Maggie Nichols (@MagsGotSwag12) January 6, 2017
you have goals and dreams to strive to achieve pic.twitter.com/XK3Z6Tc64Z
After an up-and-down 2016 season, 2017 has given Nichols plenty to be happy about.
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