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Getting to know Konnor McClain - one of Team USA's fastest rising stars
posted on 08/19/2022

© John Cheng

At just 17 years old, four-time U.S. Women's National Team member Konnor McClain is a rising star in the sport of gymnastics and a leading contender to represent the U.S. at the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. With less than two years to go until the Olympic team is named, the 2021 World Championships team member keeps raising the bar and pushing herself to be a top competitor with increasingly impressive results.

Over the years, McClain's profile has been raised by a series of memorable appearances in addition to championship results. McClain wowed the audience with her balance beam routine on the Steve Harvey-hosted show Little Big Shots at the age of 11. Last summer, she returned to the screen as one of five Olympic hopefuls in Peacock's docuseries Golden: The Journey of USA's Elite Gymnasts, which was produced by Lebron James' company UNINTERRUPTED.

Golden provided viewers an inside look into McClain's training during her first year of senior competition, establishing her as a gymnast to watch in the lead up to the 2024 Olympics. It also showcased the special relationship McClain shares with her siblings, Cole, Olivia and Deuce.

Competitiveness seems to be a recurring theme in the McClain household. Each of the four children are current or former athletes. While pursuing their dreams has led them in different directions, they continue to lean on each other regularly for support.

"We all live in different states and play different sports," McClain said, noting that she and her siblings "always watch each other's games and competitions. We're probably one of the most supportive families I've ever met."

From the gridiron to the softball field, the McClain siblings are active across the sports landscape, and the star gymnast is no exception. Before being selected to Team USA, McClain was an impressive swimmer and a member of her local swim team.

Though she enjoyed the water, McClain soon decided to focus on one sport and put her energy into becoming an elite athlete. Since choosing gymnastics, McClain has continued to impress.

© Allison Cheng
As a junior, she was crowned the 2018 U.S. balance beam champion and successfully defended her title the following year claiming all-around, vault and uneven bars silver along the way.

At the 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy, McClain was golden in the all-around and on vault - her favorite apparatus - and secured bronze on bars and floor exercise. The following March, McClain was selected to compete at the 2020 Gymnix International in Montreal, Canada, where she took home gold on every event, clinched all-around silver and led her team to the title.

Last summer, McClain made the move to WOGA Gymnastics in Plano, Texas, just a few months before the 2021 World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan, where she made her senior international debut. The experience has stayed with her and serves as a constant motivator.

"That was just a crazy experience and so different compared to all the other competitions," she explained. "Going into the arena, the feeling is just different. Once you compete there it just gives you so much confidence for your next competition."

So far in 2022, McClain has excelled on the domestic and international stages. She collected all-around and balance beam titles and shared the bronze medal on floor exercise at Winter Cup in late February.

"I [hadn't] done an all-around competition in so long. I was just trying to get back out there and see how it was going," she said.

A few weeks later, McClain traveled to the 2022 DTB Pokal Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, garnered gold on beam and silver on floor. She returned to Jesolo in April where she secured four more gold medals - all-around, team, beam and floor - for her expanding trophy case.

© Filippo Tomasi
"Going into Jesolo, I trained all those weeks. Week after week I was competing and then camp and then another competition, so I feel like I was really prepared and confident going into that meet."

Finding the podium at global events is just one part of the fun for McClain; she also looks forward to the atmosphere off the competition floor.

"Meeting all the gymnasts from the different countries, that's so fun. Then hanging out with the team, having the team environment and just bonding," she said.

Excelling in competition and making her mark on the gymnastics world aren't the only goals McClain has set for herself.

"I want to be a firefighter after my gymnastics career," she stated. "I've always wanted to help other people but it's also interesting because of the adrenaline, running into the fire."

While she's still a gymnast however, McClain tries to leave some time outside of practice to engage in her hobbies.

"I write. I'm trying to write a book right now. I also like to paint and draw," she said.

Not many people can boast that they've been an elite athlete, civil servant and an author all in one lifetime, but McClain doesn't shy away from challenges and isn't afraid to set big goals in and out of the gym. She knows what she brings to the table and how to stay focused on the things ahead.

Although it is a couple of years off, McClain is already eager to break onto the collegiate scene after verbally committing to LSU last summer.

"I am so excited, I can't wait!" she exclaimed.

With so many friends and fellow National Team members now occupying that space, McClain is hearing all about the different atmosphere and challenges that come with the sport in a college environment.

"I've done elite for so many years, so it will definitely be a change," she said.

McClain still has a lot she wants to accomplish in elite gymnastics before joining the Tigers, starting this week with the OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Knowing what it takes to make a World Championships team, McClain is hoping to make a statement this weekend and is planning to debut some enhanced skills in Tampa.

"On bars I am planning on some upgrades. And I love my new floor routine, I just got it this year and it's just really fun for me to do," she said.

Her main goals at the national championships are to make the 2022-23 National Team and finish high on the leaderboards.

As for her top priority once competition wraps on Sunday? Enjoy a very relaxing and well-deserved day at a Tampa beach.

After that, the push for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games continues.

McClain will be in action today and Sunday at Amalie Arena for the 2022 OOFOS U.S. Gymnastics Championship in Tampa, Fla. Senior women's Day 1 competition will air live on The Olympic Channel and Peacock at 7 p.m. ET. A recording of the first session will be available Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC. NBC and Peacock will stream Sunday's senior women's session live at 7 p.m. ET.

Visit usgymchampionships.com to learn more.