The exceptional focus of an elite gymnast can best be understood when we hear the 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurd of the United States is talking about her ACL tear.
He is 21 years old quite sure she tore it in 2020 while practicing an exercise on the floor.
“I did two and a half front strikes and my knee twisted as I did the front bend,” Hurd explained in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com. “My knee was very swollen and I couldn’t straighten it out for about a week. But then they told me it was just a sprain. I thought, “Okay, okay.”
Hurd who starred in the Olympic Channel original series Around, continuation of training. Competing next year in the US Classic and US Championships. Injuries – including several elbows – prevented her from getting into the form that led her to five world championship medals, including her 2017 all-around gold and 2018 team title.
She missed out on qualifying for the US Olympic trials and then the Tokyo Olympics.
Hurd took part in Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour in the fall of 2021 and then began preparing to join the University of Florida women’s gymnastics team.
“I landed with the side antenna, lie down[out stepout] in December 2021 and my knee twisted and I just fell off the beam,” recalls Hurd. “I said [my coach] Brooke [Parker]”I don’t know if I’m being dramatic, but I think I broke my knee.”
She didn’t dramatize because two weeks later the doctors told her she had torn her ACL.
“[The doctor said,] “Yes, you tore your ACL, but you tore it a while ago because all your fibers are gone,” Hurd said of the diagnosis. “So I’m pretty sure I tore it up in 2020.”
• Morgan Hurd: “I kept feeling I was running out of time”
• Morgan Hurd reveals she has had surgery to repair a torn ACL
A chance to explore
The timing couldn’t be worse, as Hurd would soon be moving to Gainesville.
“My surgery was on January 10,” she said. “I think it was two weeks after I got it [to Florida] and a few days after the start of classes. I was just hobbling around campus, which was a bit embarrassing for my first week of classes.
Unable to fully participate with her team, Hurd made the most of her free time… and her new environment.
“I joined several different organizations on campus. One of those I’m quite involved with is the Sino-American Association,” Hurd explained. “I took care of it in the fall semester. I danced and danced with the lion during their mid-autumn show. This has made me a really good group of friends.
“I’ve met some really great people who also tour a lot, and that’s what got me into performing a while back,” she continued. “They made me try so many different things, like last semester I did breakdancing.”
Born in China and adopted by her mother, Sherri, Hurd enjoys an insight into her heritage.
“It was by far the easiest process for me to get more in touch with my heritage,” she admitted. “You know, being around people who grew up around it really helped me immerse myself because I don’t feel like ignorant and trying to figure it out on my own.”
It also gave Hurd a new perspective on where gymnastics fits into her life.
“I think with the injury, it definitely helped me break out of my shell because I think if I had come to college just ready to compete, I would have stayed with an elitist mindset,” Hurd explained. “I had it like everything I do was for gymnastics [mindset] and my whole life revolves around gymnastics and every decision I make is about gymnastics. But then because I was injured, I had so much free time, so much pent-up energy, it really helped me put myself out there and feel more comfortable doing things I’d never done before.
Evolving perspective, consistent mission
As her world expands, the way Hurd looks back on her disappointment at not going to the Olympics has begun to change.
“There are so many possibilities in life, so many different paths, and the smallest thing can lead you down a completely different path,” Hurd said. “I have learned to live my life with no regrets [things] or being so bitter about the past just because it leads you to where you are today.
“You really don’t know what would have happened if everything had gone that way,” she continued. “For example, you may not have been so happy, so I just want to live more in the present.”
Frustrated by the challenges she faced during her 2021 training, and in the aftermath of her disappointment, she directed most of her energy to causes close to her heart, attending rallies against Asian hatred, even as a keynote speaker.
Hurd continues to use her platform to talk about issues that matter to her.
She eventually returned to competitive gymnastics, doing the uneven bar routines, balance beam and floor exercises for her Gator team as early as the 2023 season. (Hurd says she has no plans to train vault this year.)
Her return to competition also gave her an opportunity when, as part of a team building event in Florida, the Delaware native flashed the pansexual flag and declared herself “queer” on her Instagram.
“It’s really not a super important thing for me to be super bright [about my sexuality,]Hurd said. “People can speculate all they want. But I think it’s just an important thing to show the world… that you may be afraid to come out or feel really alone in the world. You know, representation matters.
And what matters to Hurd is that he can make a difference.
“Whatever I do, I always hope it helps not just younger athletes, but really everyone, even adults, just know they’re not alone,” she said, “and hopefully give other people the courage to not hesitate to use their voice to say what they think and stand up for what they believe and be who they want to be.