Morgan Hurd: "I constantly felt like I was running out of time"

As the Gold Over America Tour comes to an end, 2017 world all-around champion reflects on her 2021: "“I don't even think it was just a physical thing. I think it was very mental and I just kind of stopped completely believing myself," she saind in an exclusive interview.

By Scott Bregman
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

For Morgan Hurd being part of Simone Biles's 'Gold Over America Tour' may have been exactly what she needed.

“[I] have never been more grateful to be a part of something,” the 2017 world all-around champion tweeted Monday evening, a day after the final show in Boston. The 20-year-old and other gymnastics stars just wrapped up a spectacular 32-city U.S. tour that makes priortising mental health a core message.

Sixteen months before Hurd stepped foot on a tour bus, she had made a statement that she was one of the front runners for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. She’d turned the disappointment of missing out on a spot at the 2019 World Championships into a commanding, sharp victory at the American Cup in March 2020.

But, then, the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed, the world shut down.

The extra year proved difficult for the former world champion. One elbow surgery in August 2020 became two in March 2021, and the clock became Hurd’s enemy as the Olympic trials events approached.

“It was a super disappointing and frustrating and nerve-wracking time because last summer I was doing really well. I was picking up skills, and I had really high hopes going into the season and then just kind of like one thing after another,” explained Hurd, who starred in the Olympic Channel original series 'All Around,' in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com.

'It was a really tough time'

That avalanche of setbacks limited her training and meant Hurd missed competitive opportunities at February’s Winter Cup Challenge and at several subsequent national team camps. She competed on two events at both the U.S. Classic in late May and the U.S. Championships two weeks later in early June.

Her performances at the U.S. nationals were anything but what she had dreamed of, suffering multiple falls off the balance beam both days and performing floor routines below her usual standard. She petitioned for a chance to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials but was denied.

“I don't even think it was just a physical thing. I think it was very mental and I just kind of stopped completely believing myself and even believing that I could get to where I wanted to be,” she continued. “And, then, I started getting really hesitant during my gymnastics, and it was really hard for me to even train these the past few months, like leading up to [the U.S.] championships and everything, just because I constantly felt like I was running out of time.

“I was just so frustrated that my body was completely failing me,” Hurd said. “I was nervous to do my gymnastics just because I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I was scared to injure myself and just things like that. It was a really tough time.”

Welcome distractions

A call from a friend, fellow gymnast Justin Ah Chow, helped her have something else to think about. Ah Chow, a junior on the Ohio State University men’s gymnastics team, invited Hurd to join him and some friends on a trip the following week in Florida.

“The night of day two [of the U.S. championships], I'm in my room crying. It's like two hours after the competition or something, and [Justin] calls me is like, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Florida next weekend with me and some of my friends?’” Hurd recalled. “Like, ‘Sure, why not? I'm still crying, but it's fine.’”

Hurd says it was her first travel not related to gymnastics since 2016 and a welcome distraction.

But despite the heartbreak and subsequent travel distractions, the five-time world medallist says she still had dreams of continuing elite level gymnastics.

“In the beginning of the summer [after nationals], I was really gung ho that I was going to continue elite and [my coach] Slava [Glazounov] was like, ‘Well, let's see how this summer goes,’” said Hurd. “Then, I struggled the entire summer instead, so I was like, ‘I'll go to college.’

Hurd will start her studies at the University of Florida in the spring semester, she confirmed to Olympics.com.

“But I mean, you never know what can happen,” she continued. “I mean, look at [2008 Olympian] Chellsie [Memmel]. She came back after having two kids, but. I'll keep my options open, I'm not closing any doors.”

Part of something

Instead of elite training, Hurd focused instead on Biles’ tour. She hopes the show, which has a large mental health component to many of the acts, left the young gymnasts in the crowd with a message of acceptance.

“I really hope that they take away some comfort in being themselves. I mean, we have so many different girls with so many different personalities, and I think you really see that in the show,” she said. “We've been really encouraged to really be ourselves.”

The months-long engagement created memories of a lifetime for Hurd, who says she’s enjoyed getting to know foreign athletes like Ellie Black of Canada and Melanie de Jesus dos Santos of France better.

“You’re on tour with 20 other girls - there's always kind of like a lot happening,” she said with a smile. “It's a lot of fun. Everyone's personalities are so different.”

It’s also helped her find a love of performing that she thinks will help as she transitions into collegiate competition.

“I really love performing. I love it a lot more than I thought I would. I was really nervous coming in, especially having to learn all the dances and the fact that I really can't dance that well,” said Hurd.

“I think it help me a lot in the long run for NCAA because I have been on the road for about two months now and NCAA season is pretty long with competitions every weekend,” she continued. “I think performing will help me feel really comfortable as soon as I get to Florida with changing the mindset from elite to NCAA in terms of like how you act and how you react.”

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