Jun 10, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; McKayla Maroney (USA) warms up on the vault during day two of the 2012 Visa Championships in womens gymnastics at Chaifetz Arena. (Credit: Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE)
Molly Geary, USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON - She may forever be known as the teen who sparked the Internet meme, "McKayla is not impressed." But for Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, this doesn't seem so bad.
"No Olympic champion has a face made about them, so it's kind of cool, right?" she said Wednesday at an autograph session for fans. She was in town for the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which stops at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.
The 16-year-old took home an Olympic gold medal in the team competition and silver in vault, but it was an image of her with a less-than-enthused face on the medal stand in London that stuck with the audience the most.
"I don't think you can tell somebody, even before, 'OK, I'm ready for this!'" Maroney said of the social media sensation that followed after she made the facial expression with all of the world watching.
"The whole world pretty much got obsessed with it," she continued. "Every single day I get asked by people to do 'the face,' so I'm bringing it along with me now for the rest of my life."
For Maroney, it's just one part of her life that has changed since her return home from Olympic glory, and her ensuing experiences have taken some getting used to.
"I run into people all the time and they literally just say, 'Thank you,' and I'm like, 'What do you mean?' It meant so much to them, and that really makes me so happy," she said.
One of the best things that has happened to her since the London Games was attending the Video Music Awards in New York in September. But her Olympic fame also resulted in a chance to try her other passion: acting.
"I did a Heart of Dixie episode, and I was so excited for that," she said. "It was kind of like going to the Olympics, because doing an acting job was something I'd always dreamed about doing."
But gymnastics fans can rest easy that Maroney, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., is not looking to step away from the sport anytime soon. She's been focusing on acting a bit as she continues to recover from a broken toe and a fractured fibula, but she's determined to get back in action. She had the first of two surgeries in September.
"Rio 2016 is definitely on my mind, and I would really like to go to some more World Championships before that," said Maroney, who won gold in the team competition and vault at the 2011 worlds. The next Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"Next year's nationals are what I'm shooting for, but with injuries and this crazy year I don't know."
Whenever she ends up returning to competition, Maroney knows that her fans will be waiting. Despite gaining almost 400,000 Twitter followers since the Olympics, she said she doesn't really pay attention to things like that.
"I just know that all my fans who are with me and going along for the ride, that's what means the most to me."
USA TODAY Sports