© John Cheng

By Cate Grider

Soon after Maddie Karr began her performance at the 2015 Nastia Liukin Cup, she received a sign and that was when she knew — knew she was going to win.

“Right before I got on the beam, I could hear music playing off in the distance,” Karr said. And it did not take long for this self-described huge, religious Chicago Blackhawks fan to realize the song playing was the same song played after every Blackhawks goal, “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis.

“When I heard that, I knew it was a good sign and meant everything was going to be okay,” Karr said with a smile.

“She really felt it was a sign from her grandmother, telling her that it was her night and that she was going to have an amazing meet,” said Sami Wozney, Karr’s coach for the last five years.

On the morning of the Nastia Liukin Cup, Karr, 17, tried to sleep in. Her last trip to the Liukin Cup was a tough one. She had finished 15th in her division after a competition with a few bumps and falls.

Wozney, one of Karr’s coaches at Twin City Twisters in Champlin, Minn., knew Karr would bounce back and says her favorite thing about Karr is her “absolute love of competition.”

“When she did not perform as she wanted to last year [at the Liukin Cup] she came back to the gym saying, ‘Not only am I going to make it back, I’m going to win,'” said Wozney, who described Karr as a kid who “hits” in competition. According to Wozney, Karr is a gymnast who loves competition, a gamer who is always up for the challenge and gives it everything she has.

Karr began gymnastics when she was in pre-school and had advanced to Level 5 by the time she was 7. Karr stayed in Level 9 for two years, causing frustration.

“That was a difficult couple of years for me,” Karr noted.

However, she believes it paid off, and when the time came to transition to Level 10, she felt more prepared to learn new routines.

With the Nastia Liukin Cup starting at 7 p.m., Karr arrived at AT&T Stadium a little past 4:30 p.m. and jumped right into the timed warm-ups. While she was warming up, she kept repeating some personal mantras, “Stay in my own body” and “Don’t overthink everything.”

“I am at my best when I’m having fun,” she said. And that’s just what she did.

Karr made good on the promise she made months earlier: return to the Nastia Liukin Cup and not just compete but win. Karr won the senior all-around title with an overall score of 38.275.

Karr, who committed to the University of Denver while a junior in high school, plans to take all she has learned to the next level.

Wozney knows the future is bright for Karr.

“The sky is the limit for a young woman with all of her talents,” she said.