Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Gymnast Morgan Hurd won Female Athlete of the Month for October 2017, during which she won the world all-around title. In Hurd’s Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, she discusses how striving for a healthy work-life balance helps her stay in top form.
Gymnast Morgan Hurd insists everything in her life seems perfectly normal.
Which sounds logical from the 16-year-old, who is balancing an elite gymnastics career and online high school studies, until she teases apart the details.
She’s still in shock over winning the 2017 world all-around title five weeks ago, and can’t believe how much fun it all was. The sparkly gold championship medal is soon to get a new home, and definitely be on display, in a shadow box that’s being made.
The Middletown, Delaware, native breaks out in ecstatic giggles when discussing how her favorite authors, J.K. Rowling and John Green, tweeted shout-outs to her. She’s clearly bummed to only be 170 pages into Green’s latest hit release, “Turtles All the Way Down,” because she hasn’t had enough time to finish.
And what about the young gymnasts from around the country who dressed up as Hurd, complete with a leotard and her signature glasses, for Halloween? They shared their snaps and fandom via social media, and yeah, Hurd was shocked and honored.
So is everything really normal?
Maybe not totally.
“I think everything now is getting back to normal, sort of?” Hurd said, with a semi-questioning lilt. “It’s all sunk in a little more, like the last two weeks, than the previous weeks. But it still feels insane. It’s crazy what’s all happened.”
Morgan Hurd competes on the balance beam at the individual apparatus finals of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 8, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.
Hurd’s “new normal,” like having the words “World Champion” attached to her name for the rest of her life, can be traced to an evolution in her maturity and mindset.
She has always displayed a knack for gymnastics performance, at ease in front of large crowds. But while her skill set was elite, she still struggled with stress and nerves before taking the floor to compete.
Hurd wanted to feel at ease and be able to let loose when it mattered most.
Her first world championships, which were held in October in Montreal, proved to be a breakthrough — and in more ways than winning the coveted title.
She felt calm and balanced, and she noticed the difference in her mindset. This was something special, beyond the honor of being on the U.S. world championships team.
“It’s something I just recently learned, I’m not usually that calm in competition,” Hurd said, describing how she now takes some deep breaths and talks to herself in a whisper to release tension moments before the competition.
“I’m usually freaking out before I compete. My coach (Slava Glazounov) and I talked about having a ritual, and I worked on it a lot at home.”
Hurd was told to trust in her training, to really believe that she was ready to compete and go for the podium in every event. She took the leap to believe, and the results followed.
“I worked really hard, and I knew I was prepared,” she said. “So I wanted to be confident and have fun. It worked. So I think the ritual is really good for me.”
Hurd’s experience at worlds reaffirmed her love for gymnastics and her desire to keep improving.
She has an intense schedule, spending 6-7 hours a day practicing and squeezing in 2-3 hours of online school. She goes home around 7 p.m., eats dinner and does homework until it is time to go to bed.
And then Hurd gets up at 7:30 a.m. the next day to do it all again.
There isn’t much time off, but when Hurd finds a few free minutes, she will be deep into a book, listening to music or hanging with friends.
“I just love being lazy and laying around,” Hurd said, invoking a state she rarely gets to revel in. “But when I am doing it, I’m like, ‘Oh! I should be more productive!’ and then I think I should get up and organize my closet or something.”
When it’s pointed out that Hurd is actually quite productive, both in the gym and in her schoolwork, she laughs.
“I guess, yeah,” she said. “I’m just always looking to get better.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.