MG Elite have had a stellar quadrennium on the elite level, producing the 2013 Junior National Vault Champion, Ariana Agrapides, the 2014 Junior National All-Around Champion, Jazmyn Foberg and of course the 2015 Junior National All-Around Champion, 2016 National All-Around bronze medalist and 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist, Laurie Hernandez. Now, with Tokyo on the horizon the newest rising star from the New Jersey gym is making her mark. Riley McCusker made a splash onto the elite scene in 2016, placing 2nd all-around in the junior division at the 2016 P&G Championships and also winning the silver medal on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Riley was added to the National Team for the first time following the Championships and will become a senior gymnast in 2017. With beautiful long lines and great flexibility combined with difficult routines, Riley will certainly be one to watch for the upcoming quadrennium as we look towards Tokyo in 2020.
Here, Riley talks about moving to MG Elite, making the jump to the elite level, her training & future plans, her coach, Maggie Haney and watching her MG Elite teammate, Laurie Hernandez compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
1) Firstly congratulations on a wonderful 2016 season, how did it feel to be added to the National Team and earn the silver medal at P&G Championships?
2) You moved to MG Elite not that long ago, can you tell me a little about why you made that move?
3) Maggie and MG Elite have had phenomenal success in the elite world in the past few years, why do you think that is and what was the difference Maggie made to you as a gymnast to make you become one of the top juniors in the U.S.?
4) When did you realise that you had the potential to do elite gymnastics and was it always a goal of yours to go elite?
5) How has training been going since the Summer? Can we expect any upgrades or new skills for 2017?
6) What was it like seeing your MG Elite teammate Laurie Hernandez be named to the Olympic Team and go on to win 2 medals at the Games? Did it give you extra motivation and belief that dreams can come true?
7) On the flip side, you watched your other teammate Jazmyn Foberg be forced to end her 2016 season prematurely due to injury, how has her story affected you and even more so her determination to come back in 2017?
8) You have verbally committed to the University of Florida, what was special about Florida for you and was there any other schools that interested you?
9) Every elite gymnast is obviously tremendously talented and hard working, is there anything in particular that you think makes you succeed? Something that keeps you going and striving to be the best you can be?
10) You will be senior in 2017, are you excited to enter the senior ranks and what are your goals for the 2017 season?
11) What do you think was your biggest accomplishment as a gymnast, aside from competition results or being added to the National Team?
12) Obviously gymnastics is a huge part of your life but outside the gym, what is your personality like and what do you think you would do if you didn’t do gymnastics?
13) You train away from home, how has being away from your family affected you?
14) What do you see yourself doing when you’re older? Is coaching something your interested in or do you want to have a career outside of the gymnastics world?
15) And finally, tell me a little about the early years of gymnastics for you. What came naturally and what made you fall in love with the sport?
When I was little I was always naturally flexible. The idea that there was always more to learn each day and ways to improve every practice; that’s what made me fall in love with the sport.