Coach Artur Akopyan looks on as McKayla Maroney talks to the media during the 2012 London Olympics
Since helping Team USA go down in history as Olympic Champions, and going viral with her "not impressed" face, McKayla Maroney has launched into superstardom. Her journey to the Olympics, however, was less than ideal.
Akopyan is a former Soviet gymnast and a 6-time World medalist.
That was a rough time for me, actually more than for her because I could not help her in any way. It’s up to what she feels and how she can perform. We know gymnastics doesn’t like no training because every day counts, and she missed a whole week of training. I was concerned and so were her doctors. But I am pleased and thank God that she came back and did her job.
That was a sad time for me. I thought it was very serious, the head injury. And nobody knew what was going to happen. But I trusted and knew she was strong mentally and has a brave heart. I talked to her parents and they convinced me. Even her father said, “the Maroneys are hard headed. She will come back. She will do it.”
I just asked her to be honest with me about her injury because it’s not an easy injury; it is scary. And I understand (the importance of) the Olympic Games, but living all your life with this injury, no one wants to see that.
Akopyan and Maroney upon her return from the 2012 London Olympics
First of all, she has a very good heart. She has a beautiful personality. All my life I’ve trained athletes, I’ve had good times and bad times with athletes and it’s not easy to change the gymnasts and their personalities, so you have to deal with that. And with McKayla, every day I feel better after the workout. She’s working hard. I will never have to raise my voice with her. She’s a very strong and intelligent girl. But at the same time, she’s girly and soft. And lady-like.
Maroney during her breakout meet as a junior, the 2010 Visa Championships
She’s a hard worker and very talented gymnast. But her (training) background was kind of down, not really into this level of gymnastics. She was doing vault. And the vault that she was doing - it’s awesome. I decided to add the second vault. I decided to make up the other events and see if she could make the team, in any place. And that was the national team, first of all. We were not thinking about the Worlds or Olympics. Just slowly going through. She trained hard. And she grew up fast.
She’s actually a very powerful gymnast. She has like a gift from God in the power, the quickness. And she is a true athlete. Just a gift from God. Not many people have those things.
Maroney and Akopyan at the 2012 Secret Classic