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LSU Gymnast Konnor McClain Won’t Let An Injury Keep Her Down

The sophomore may be missing the Games this year, but she has her eyes set on the 2028 Olympics.

by Marilyn La Jeunesse

Konnor McClain is only 19 and she’s already become one of the most well-known American gymnasts. She has a U.S. National Championship to her name and helped lead the Louisiana State University gymnastics team to its first-ever NCAA national championship in March 2024. In her historic debut as a Tiger, she received three perfect 10 scores and All-SEC and All-Freshman honors — an impressive feat for any athlete.

Originally from West Virginia, McClain moved to Louisiana in 2023 to start her freshman year at LSU. Here, she continued to train both to compete as a collegiate gymnast and as an individual striving to make it to the Olympics. In doing so, she landed a partnership with Celsius, an energy drink she says helped her balance her school work and athletic training.

A favorite to join Team USA at the upcoming Olympics, McClain received a bronze medal on the balance beam at the U.S. Classic in May 2024, coming behind Sunisa Lee and Simone Biles. Unfortunately, McClain suffered an Achilles tendon injury at the competition and was forced to put her Olympic dreams on hold… temporarily.

“The first thing I said to my coaches was ‘So can we try for 2028?’” McClain tells Elite Daily of her unexpected withdrawal from the U.S. Classic. “I joked about it a lot because I didn’t want it to be real. I didn’t even want to cry about it.”

Despite having dedicated endless hours training for the 2024 Olympics, McClain says the injury won’t keep her down. She’s dedicating her time to physical therapy and planning on making a return to gymnastics as soon as she’s cleared to do so. “Even though I did have a terrible injury, it’s not the worst thing in the world that could happen, so I’m doing good.”

Below, the rising college sophomore opens up about her college success, navigating self-care as a competitive athlete, and her advice for aspiring gymnasts.

Elite Daily: When did you know you wanted to go to college, and how did you choose LSU?

Konnor McClain: I was a late bloomer when I decided to go to college. My dream was always the Olympics, so I was like, “No, I don’t want to go to college. I don’t need college.” But then NIL [Name, Image and Likeness] hit, and after seeing all my friends and siblings go to college and love it, I decided I wanted to go too. It wasn’t just one thing that set me on LSU, it was just everything all together — the coaches, the gymnastics team, the campus. They have everything that I ever wanted and everything that I ever needed. So I just love it. It’s my dream school.

ED: What are you majoring in, and why did you decide to pursue a career in this field?

KM: I’m in interdisciplinary study, so I have four minors right now: sociology, social work, leadership development, and communication studies. I started with psychology and read up on foster kids and foster families. I chose social work to help kids in any way I can. There’s a lot of need for social workers right now.

Usually, I don’t cry at competitions, but I fully cried. It’s unbelievable to me.

ED: As someone who was homeschooled before college, what was your freshman year like? Was it difficult to adjust to life on campus?

KM: I got a rocky start. I was sick a lot, but I would never go back and change it. It was the best year I honestly could have had. I thought it was going to be really scary and I was going to have a really hard time just settling in, but it was the complete opposite. I loved going to class and experiencing a social life. It was a change, but it was a change for the better.

ED: Do you have any advice for incoming freshmen?

KM: Don’t stress over little things and just have fun. If you have fun, then you’ll do your best in everything you can.

ED: You already had an impressive gymnastics career by the time you got to college. How did you deal with the expectations?

KM: I stopped looking at the expectations, honestly. Expectations were such a big thing for me in elite gymnastics, and I didn’t want to have that same pressure. I just did gymnastics for myself and my team; that’s all that mattered to me.

ED: How have you seen yourself grow as a gymnast since becoming a collegiate athlete?

KM: I feel like a completely different person. I feel more mature, honestly. It made me grow so much as a person and made me have a different outlook on life.

ED: You had a pretty big freshman year receiving the All-SEC and All-Freshman honors in your debut season. Was it different to win at the collegiate level than it was at an international level?

KM: It felt better because my team was right there with me and we were all together. It’s different whenever you’re winning for yourself versus winning for 22 other girls. That part’s different, but the feeling that you get out of winning a gymnastic competition is the exact same no matter where you go. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just such a good feeling, and you just want to cry because you made it there.

If you don’t feel good, then you’re not going to have the best mindset in the classroom or the in the gym either.

ED: You were a huge part of securing LSU’s first-ever national championship win. How did it feel to be a part of Tiger history?

KM: Going into nationals, we all knew it could happen, but we never tried to get ahead of ourselves. Competing with that stressed us out a little bit. But we all came together as a team. Sitting there watching Aleah Finnegan, the last girl in the rotation, go up there and hit a beam routine, it was all the emotions put together. There were tears everywhere. And usually, I don’t cry at competitions, but I fully cried. It’s unbelievable to me.

ED: How do you navigate self-care with the stress of being an athlete and a student?

KM: I put it first before anything because it makes you feel better, honestly. If you don’t feel good, then you’re not going to have the best mindset in the classroom or the in the gym either. I like to take a shower in the morning; that starts my day and my head in the right space. It’s the best thing I do for myself and my self-care.

ED: Do you have any tips for balancing a busy schedule?

KM: Don’t procrastinate anything or else it will never get done.

ED: Speaking of busy schedules, how did you go about training for your college meets, study for exams, and prep for the Olympic qualifiers?

KM: I had a schedule and planned out everything. I had a pretty good schedule going. I would go to class and then I had tutoring. Then I would have lunch and practice. Right before every single practice, I would drink a Celsius because that’s how I got ready for practice after a long morning, because we don’t have practice until late afternoon. Celsius keeps me energized most of the time, which I definitely need.

ED: Do you have a favorite flavor?

KM: My go-to will always be the Arctic Vibe or the Astro Vibe.

ED: Do you have any advice for aspiring gymnasts?

KM: Just keep going. No matter the hard days, or the easy days, never give up on what you want to do — even if it is the hardest day of your life. And have fun and smile.

ED: How are you taking time to heal this summer? Do you have any fun trips planned or maybe some spa days?

KM: Definitely both. I actually had a spa day yesterday, and I need to go to the beach because I have never had a real summer before, so this is my first summer. Even though I have one leg, I’m going to go to the beach a couple of times.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.