Overheard in STL: The week in Quotes
posted on 06/27/2016

By Nick McCarvel

ST. LOUIS – Say what?

For five days this past weekend, the best gymnasts in the country descended on Chaifetz Arena for the P&G Gymnastics Championships and the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team Trials.

Here, a collection of their most poignant, inspiring, emotional – and sometimes hilarious – words from the events’ mixed zones.

Newly minted Olympian Chris Brooks on why people gravitate to his story:
“People love the underdog. That’s the definition of me. I talk about the ‘career of almosts’ and I feel very honored and fortunate to have had the career that I have had up to the point obviously, but this is the icing on top. I can’t wait to get out there and show the world what Team USA has.”

Simone Biles on how she’s kept her focus this season:
“I think I’ve been good about taking it moment for moment. A lot of the interviews are forward-looking. In 2013, people were asking me about the Olympics. Now that it’s 2016, people want to know what I’m doing after the Olympics. I’m like, ‘Wait! You guys are skipping over it!’ I’m just trying to live in the moment.”

Martha Karolyi on her infamous “wow” moment after Laurie Hernandez’s floor:
“I think it’s important that the girls impress us, and if I say ‘Wow,’ it means I really like it. It’s a positive point for Laurie. She did a very good job. She handled the pressure very well. She is a newcomer at the senior level and competed as a model gymnast; that’s what we needed to know.”

Gabby Douglas on if she can believe that 2012 was four – four! – years ago:
“I can’t. I really can’t. … I don’t feel old! I still feel young and fresh. I love it because it pushes the best out of everyone. Seeing everyone, it motivates you. You feed off that energy, it pushes us. The hunger was always there. Getting back to the rhythm and training, I wanted to get back. So far everything has come together really well.”

Alex Naddour on how his family has motivated him, including baby daughter Lilah, born this year:
“My wife washed my uniform in the baby’s detergent so I could smell it before I went. I’ve been doing this for my family. I would smell it before I went and told (my family), ‘I can’t miss, it’s impossible.’ It was a team effort. A lot of behind-the-scenes things, my wife sleeping on the opposite side of the house to sleep with the baby so I could get my rest and train.”

Seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller on what makes Simone Biles so great:
“She delivers so consistently. This will probably be her fourth national title, which is just incredible. She is just such a cool, calm and collected competitor. She may not feel that inside, but what she looks like out there, she takes control. I think that’s a settling feeling going into the Olympics, particularly for the first time. It sets a good tone for the rest of the team.”

Jake Dalton on coming back after an injury last season, which put him out of the World Championships:
“I just wanted to prove that I was back, consistent and ready to go. It makes it hard. We have so much depth. Everyone is here to compete for his spot. I’ve been through this process, and I still get extremely nervous. It’s stressful, but you have to learn to deal with it. I get in my zone and find that gymnastics autopilot. “

Chris Brooks on realizing his Olympic dream – finally:
“I flashed back to being an 8-year-old kid in the gym. Everything became worth it in that moment.”

Laurie Hernandez, laughing, on what the U.S. women call Aly Raisman:
“We call her ‘Mama Aly.’”

John Orozco, after making the Olympic team a second time, on his late mom:
“I know my mom is with me here in spirit. I can’t even get my thoughts together.”

Danell Leyva on his Olympic Trials prep after finishing 16th at the P&G Championships:
“I’ve had a very hard last couple of weeks. You need to be at your best and you need to be better than others to make that Olympic team. The results weren’t what I wanted, but I hit all of my routines and that’s what I wanted. There is the dramatics of it all - the theatrics of maybe being someone who has been written off by a lot of people. Can I come out of nowhere? That makes a great story obviously, but… what makes a difference is the preparation and how you feel within yourself.”

Steve Legendre on his own daughter, Cameron, and how she motivates his gymnastics:
“Sometimes it’s easier to be happy after a hard day. I’m just as focused and motivated. Occasionally, my wife brings Cameron (eight months old) to the gym and I’ll go over to her between sets to make her laugh. I’ll run back and get back to what I’m doing. It’s fun; it’s uplifting. I like it. The more you can smile, the less you’re stressed out. She’s a very happy baby. She’s laughing with me, smiling.”

Chris Brooks after night one on his Olympic chances:
“This is my last shot at an Olympic team and I’ve had the will to prepare and leave no stone unturned… I just went out there and laid it out all on the floor.”

Alex Naddour on what he wants to prove to little Lilah:
“I want to show (my daughter) that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. I was able to do that. This was my goal since I was a kid. It hasn’t been just four years, it’s been my whole life, training and wanting it.”

Sam Mikulak on how his family – particularly his dad – calms him during competition:
“They know how to calm me down and cheer me up. I looked up to my whole cheering section and my dad was saying, ‘Hey, you’re in this man. Get pumped, we’re with you.’”

Laurie Hernandez on growing closer with coach Maggie Haney:
“Mentally and physically we have been growing together. There is some sort of bond that we have. We’re so close, so she knows me really well. She knows me inside and out, and I think that plays a really important role in my gymnastics. She knows when I’m tired, my limit, how and when to push me.”

Sam Mikulak on the Pizookie, a dessert that he craves – and rarely has (shocker):
“It’s my favorite dessert of all time. It’s a delicious cookie with heaps of ice cream on top of it. The contrast is perfect. They recently came out with monkey bread Pizookie which has changed the game quite a bit, but my favorite is sea salt and caramel. … (I’ll have one) after the Olympic Games. It will probably be something I will want to indulge in then.”

Aly Raisman on her peak performance on day two of the women’s event:
“I felt really good tonight, probably the best I have since I’ve come back. I’ve surpassed my expectations. Some days, at workouts I had to ask my dad to come pick me up because I was so tired. I couldn’t even drive home.”

Simone Biles on her surprise at how quick the Olympic Trials have come – they’re next!
“Gosh, I guess it’s here. There’s no other step aside from getting to Trials and making the team.”