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OU women's gymnastics: Maggie Nichols at peace with end of career, excited for future

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Maggie Nichols

Senior Maggie Nichols before the last home meet against Michigan on March 6.

When Maggie Nichols stuck her landing off the table for her 22nd career perfect 10 and followed that with three scores of 9.95 at the Lloyd Noble Center on March 6, she had no idea that she had just performed for the last time in her career.

The Sooners' star had delivered an electric showing on her senior night capped by a celebration with friends and family, and in seven days, she was set to head to Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete in front of a sellout crowd in her home state.

From there, it would be on to the Big 12 Championships, NCAA Regionals, and eventually the National Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, as the she vied for her third-straight NCAA all-around title and her third NCAA team national championship.

The coronavirus pandemic altered all of those plans, as each of those events was cancelled due to the outbreak and the NCAA gymnastics season was ended prematurely.

"It's hard to even wrap my head around the situation," Nichols said, when she spoke to media for the first time after her senior season was finished. "It doesn't even feel real yet."

In the blink of an eye, the remains of Nichols' career were taken away, a turn of events that she described as "heartbreaking."

Whether or not the NCAA will grant extended eligibility to winter sport athletes like Nichols remains to be seen. She says a return to competition next year is something she would have to think long and hard about.

But if March 6 was indeed Nichols' last day as a gymnast, she said she finds solace in the fact that she went out on a high note.

"You know, I don’t think I could’ve ended any better," Nichols said. "Just knowing that I ended on a pretty good night, I had a perfect 10 that night and some other pretty great routines and I just don’t think I could have ended any better which really does ease my mind with the whole situation."

While Nichols' time swinging on the bars and drawing the crowd in with her routines might be over, the legacy she has built as an inspirational figure continues to grow.

She will serve as a student assistant to head coach K.J. Kindler next year, while working toward a masters degree in broadcast journalism.

Abroad, her reach will continue to extend beyond what she has done inside the arena.

The movie 'Athlete A,' named after Nichols  the first athlete to file a complaint regarding the sexual abuses of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar  will make its world debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

Nichols decision to reveal her status in 2018 compelled many others to come forward, and she said she hopes the upcoming film will continue to help others who have faced similar trials.

Meanwhile, Nichols' stardom continues to shine a light on college gymnastics, and she said she's grateful she had the opportunity to help make the sport more popular.

"(College gymnastics) is so amazing," Nichols said, "And I think more people need to watch it and realize how incredible it truly is."

While her career did not end the way she envisioned, Nichols has left an impact on all who have seen her positive posts on social media and her routines. Now, she said she can't help but look back and smile at it all.

"Just the things that I've overcome, and the things that I've accomplished, I don't think I could have had a better career," Nichols said. "I gave it everything I had, and I left everything that I had on the table and floor."

Mason Young is a journalism sophomore and a senior news reporter for The Daily.

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