Hurd & Worlds have long had history before all-around gold
posted on 10/07/2017

© John Cheng

By Paul Logothetis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 7, 2017 – Don’t ever doubt Morgan Hurd’s commitment to the World Championships.

As a 13-year-old, Hurd woke at 5 a.m. to watch the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, even live blogging the action. In 2015, she flew to Glasgow to see Simone Biles secure a third-straight all-around gold as a fan.

This time around, she did one better by securing a gold medal on her Worlds debut.

And to cap it off, Nadia Comaneci was the one to place the medal around her neck.

“She’s one of my idols,” Hurd gushed from the Olympic Stadium, site of Comaneci’s historic perfect-10 performance at the 1976 Olympics.

“In the third grade, I was her for a school project. I went in dressed as her and did a report on her.”

Hurd’s unexpected victory thrust the 16-year-old into the record books as the fifth-straight American all-around champion following three-time champion Simone Biles and 2011 winner Jordyn Wieber. And it came amid trying circumstances as teammate and competition favorite Ragan Smith missed the final after injuring her right ankle in warm-ups.

Instead of letting Smith’s disappointment get to her, Hurd channeled her inner strength.

Smith came up limp practicing a Yurchenko double for the final-opening vault. While Smith hobbled off, Hurd went to work looking to make a dent after having qualified quietly in sixth.

Hurd certainly never underestimated her chances in Montreal. She has been homeschooled since the age of 6 with gymnastics in mind and the unusual amount of grit and determination the teen athlete possesses certainly peaked during her journey to the Worlds.

An elbow injury limited her effectiveness at the P&G Championships, where she placed sixth in the all-around, eighth on uneven bars, fifth on balance beam, and tenth on floor exercise. But at a selection camp in September, she swayed national team coordinator Valeri Liukin enough to earn a spot in Montreal.

© John Cheng
“That was some big stuff for her, for a (small) girl,” Liukin said. “I was worried about consistency, but it came out OK for her.”

Consistency was the key for Hurd on Friday as she outlasted top qualifier Mai Murakami of Japan before eventually edging Canada’s Elsabeth Black by 0.100 for the title. Russia's Elena Eremina won bronze.

“I just wanted to have a clean meet and hit four-for-four,” said Hurd, who overcame some jitters on the beam with a hit performance on the floor exercise. “It was so fun, my floor routine felt so exhilarating.”

It was a topsy-turvy final with Murakami falling out of contention with a slip on the beam, where Hurd herself managed to just hang on. An excellent floor routine put her in control.

“That was probably the best floor routine I’ve ever done. My landings were way better than qualification and podium training.”

By the time she finished on floor, there were still five more competitors to sit through, an agonizing wait that finally ended when Black failed to surpass Hurd’s score to give Canada its first all-around gold.

Hurd’s weekend is not done yet either. She has a chance to add another medal to her tally on Sunday in the balance beam final.