In 2012, McKayla Maroney was one of the most famous American athletes. A member of the “Fierce Five,” the beloved U.S. gymnastics team at the London Olympics, Maroney gained even greater fame as a meme after cameras caught her unimpressed face at a medal ceremony. Post-Olympics, Maroney’s life took a dark turn for a bit, but she’s reclaiming the spotlight.
McKayla Maroney and the Fierce Five
At the London Olympics, all eyes were on the Fierce Five as they took the stage. Alongside Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Weber, Maroney dazzled audiences with acrobatic feats of strength and agility. While all of these Olympians became stars, reports NBC Sports, Maroney achieved a different type of fame.
When Maroney won a silver medal on the vault, TV cameras caught her, making a face many deemed to be unimpressed. The result was a meme that took over the online world. Maroney’s unimpressed face made several images funnier, from political messages to film screenshots.
According to Maroney, the face wasn’t what it was made out to be on the internet. “I remember doing the face for literally two seconds,” Maroney told Inside Gymnastics. “Like, if you watch the video, it’s two seconds. And I remember thinking, did I just make a face? Because it’s natural. I do it all the time. I have pictures of me when I’m little doing it.”
While Maroney admits she wasn’t happy, it was more of a brief disappointment than an absolute disgust. She knew she had to redeem herself in 2016, but her story took a dark turn in the ensuing years.
Larry Nassar and Maroney’s retirement
Maroney continued competing in the years following her Olympic journey. The fall that dropped her to second place and spawned the meme weighed heavily. Injuries plagued her career after the Olympics. Despite the impact they had on her body, something darker eventually caused her to retire at just 19 years old.
Larry Nassar, a team doctor for the U.S. Olympic team, was caught molesting dozens of underage girls throughout his career. And Maroney was one of the first big names to come forward and call for punishment. Maroney stated that Nassar took something from her and the others. Despite a confidentiality agreement, she took Nassar and USA Olympics to task for their involvement in the scandal.
She released a statement about the trauma Nassar put her through. “Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Maroney said per Time. “Not only because of what he did to me, my teammates and so many other little girls — He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child. I urge you to impose the maximum sentence upon him.”
Maroney’s second career
With gymnastics behind her, reports Insider, McKayla Maroney helped use her status to bring Nassar’s crimes to the public. But she isn’t letting the worst moments of her life define her future. She always had her eyes set on a bigger prize from an early age.
After her Olympic career, she dabbled in acting on TV shows and tried to make a name as a celebrity. Her true passion, however, lay in music. Maroney teased a musical career for several years, reports ESPN. But it took the 2020 COVID outbreak to release her first two singles. The songs were well-received. While Maroney’s long-term musical interests remain to be seen, it’s good to see her land on her feet.