Q: Do you have a nickname?
Q: When and why did you first become interested in gymnastics?
“My mom started me in gymnastics originally just for fun! And it’s what she knew. She did gymnastics as well [McKenna’s mother is Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic All-Around Champion]. I continued the sport because I fell in love with it.”
Q: Do you have any good/funny memories from when you first started taking gymnastics classes?
“I remember watching the older girls doing straddle jumps on the high beam. I thought it was a good idea to try it. So I climbed up on the beam, did the straddle jump, but also straddled the beam.”
Q: When did you decide you wanted to compete?
“I never really ‘decided to compete’. I just assumed that’s what I was supposed to do when you get to a certain level. I love showing the judges what I’ve trained for, as well as my competitors! After all, that’s the whole reason we train, to compete!”
And, when did you want to compete on the elite level? What about competition appeals to you?
“Elite is always something I have wanted to do. It’s so much dedication and so much heart. It’s definitely a huge goal of mine to go elite and make the National Team, and maybe compete for Team USA. Elite gymnastics isn’t something everyone can do, but it’s a long battle I’m willing to take.”
Q: What is your favorite event?
“Honestly, it depends on the day. If I’m having a good beam day, where I’m solid and fixing my corrections, then beam is my favorite! Same with floor, vault or bars. But I really enjoy tumbling and just throwing new skills.”
Q: What is your favorite skill?
“Probably a double layout on floor. They’re so fun! It feels like you’re defying gravity.”
Q: What music do you use for your floor routine?
“I have no idea what it’s called, but I enjoy my music! It’s kind of Spanish-y, but electronic. It’s upbeat, and hopefully, the audience and judges find it entertaining.”
Q: Who is your favorite gymnast or who is your “idol”?
“You know, I wouldn’t say I have a specific idol or favorite gymnast. My mom doesn’t count because she’s just mom to me, but I admire and look up to any elite athlete. They have sacrificed so much for a sport that they love. I have so much respect for them and definitely look up to the National Team girls.”
Q: How have you grown as a gymnast during your career, both skill wise and mentally?
“Gymnastics has taught me so much. It’s given me more battles than anything, but it’s also shown me patience, strength, confidence and independence, and how I can overcome anything if I put my mind to it. It’s also helped me become mentally strong. I can handle certain things that most people couldn’t.”
Q: How has gymnastics helped you as a person?
“As a person, I am more patient about things and definitely more motivated. If there’s something I want, I’ll work for it, inside and out of the gym.”
Q: If you had to select one life-lesson that gymnastics has taught you, what would it be?
“That you can’t always win, but you can’t be afraid to make decisions.”
Q: What are your biggest accomplishments or best memories in your career?
“Probably placing fifth at the 2013 J.O. Nationals, qualifying for the Nastia Cup and verbally committing to LSU! The best college ever.”
Q: Do you want to compete in collegiate gymnastics?
“Definitely! I’m verbally committed with LSU for 2015.”
Q: What are your favorite subjects in school?
“I like English. Definitely not math and science.”
Q: If you plan to go to college, do you know what you want to study there?
“Not positive. For a while I wanted to do psychology, or sports psychology, but now I’m thinking about journalism because I want to work in the social media field.”
Q: What are your goals for the future?
“I’d love to finish strong the rest of the season and go out with a bang my senior year. I’d also like to leave a mark in my college career, maybe something with NCAA Nationals. When I’m finished competing, I’d like to be a successful and independent woman with a job that I love doing.”
Q: When you’re not in the gym, how do you enjoy spending your time? Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities?
“When am I not in the gym?! Very rarely do I get free time, but when I do, I like to hang out with my family and friends. My family is everything to me, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without their love and support. I consider shopping to be a hobby or activity and that’s definitely my favorite.”
Q: What is your favorite food?
“I love sushi! I love steak, too. I like a lot of unhealthy things as well, but I probably shouldn’t list them.”
Q: What is your favorite movie?
“I love old movies! Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my favorite. I also love Disney movies.”
Q: What is your favorite book?
“The Great Gatsby.”
Q: Who is your favorite music group/artist?
“I listen to all types of music. I don’t have a favorite, specific group.”
Q: Are any of your family members current or former athletes? Which sports?
“Yes. I have three sisters who are all athletes as well. My older sister Shayla, who is 18, was a Level 10 gymnast. She earned a college scholarship to Baylor University for the Acro and Tumbling team. Skyla,13, is in competitive cheerleading, and my baby sister Emma, 11, is a Level 8 gymnast.”
Q: Do you have any competition rituals? Lucky charms?
“I always have to eat a banana before my meets. Even if it’s just one little bite. I don’t know why. When I do my hair, the little rubber band for the braid in my hair has to be yellow, like gold for first place! I have to listen to certain songs before my meet, too. I watch ‘Elites- why do we fall’ on YouTube before my meets to motivate me. Before I salute, I have to say all my keywords and what I call “voodoo,” which is just my physical motions to remind myself what I need to do.”
Q: What’s on your IPod right now? What type of music do you enjoy listening to? How about before a meet when you’re trying to get focused and pumped up?
“I love rap and hip hop. I listen to Miley Cyrus’ “Do My Thang” and Gym Class Hero’s “The Fighter”. Those songs are musts! After, I will just listen to anything else that has a fast beat and gets me going and in the zone.”
Q: If you had to pick 3 words to describe yourself as a gymnast, what are they?
“Strong, confident, and positive.”
Q: What 3 words describe you as a person, not the gymnast?
“Motivated, generous, and encouraging.”