Morgan Hurd ready to 'fight harder than ever' in Olympic year

The 2017 World champion returns to gymnastics competition this weekend after missing out on October's World Championships

2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd starts her Olympic artistic gymnastics campaign on Saturday at the American Cup in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Hurd, who followed up her 2017 global win by taking the title at the 2018 American Cup, will make her first competitive appearance since not being named to the U.S. team for the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany

“I feel like I have to fight harder than ever and look even better than ever in order to prove that I'm still worthy of an Olympic spot,” said Hurd during an interview for the Olympic Channel original series All Around.

“I have to keep working on my mentality and just keeping my brain together for the entire time and not letting myself my thoughts wander,” Morgan Hurd to Olympic Channel.

Hurd’s likeliest competition for the all-around crown will be American teammate Kayla DiCello, who will make her senior international debut as wildcard entry at the event. Youth Olympic Games champion Giorgia Villa, who helped her Italian team to a historic team bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, and 2017 World all-around silver medalist Ellie Black of Canada are also in the field.

The American Cup is the first of four International Gymnastics Federation all-around World Cup events where countries can secure an additional berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The other events are scheduled for Stuttgart, Germany, 21-22 March; Birmingham, Great Britain, 28 March; and Tokyo, 4-5 April.

Hurd’s likeliest competition for the all-around crown will be American teammate Kayla DiCello, who will make her senior international debut as wildcard entry at the event. Youth Olympic Games champion Giorgia Villa, who helped her Italian team to a historic team bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, and 2017 World all-around silver medalist Ellie Black of Canada are also in the field.

The American Cup is the first of four International Gymnastics Federation all-around World Cup events where countries can secure an additional berth to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The other events are scheduled for Stuttgart, Germany, 21-22 March; Birmingham, Great Britain, 28 March; and Tokyo, 4-5 April.

Shaking off 2019

Hurd first caught the attention of the gymnastics world at the 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup.

There she was a tiny, glasses wearing gymnast with a spark that captivated the audience, including Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Liukin who towered over Hurd during a post-event interview despite removing her heels.

She followed that up by winning the World all-around title in her debut senior season three years later, becoming the only woman not named Simone Biles to win a global all-around competition since 2013.

Hurd went on to win three more medals, including bronze in the all-around, at the 2018 World Championships in Doha.

But her 2019 season didn’t live up to the standard she had set for herself previously. She entered the year coming off minor elbow surgery that set her back. A busy competitive schedule, which included a win at the Tokyo World Cup in April and team gold at July’s Pan American Games, meant she would never have the time to fully catch up.

Hurd had flashes of brilliance, including a second place finish on the uneven bars at the U.S. Championships and a day two total in the all-around that tied for third best with best friend Sunisa Lee.

But she also had setbacks, including a fall off the uneven bars at the U.S. women’s world selection event that likely cost her a place on the team.

“I feel like my fall on bars was the mistake that put me off the team,” Hurd said afterward. “I was really disappointed and upset. I just felt like a failure.”

That feeling and disappointment has fueled her in the off-season, as she looks to upgrade many of her routines from last season.

“'Be angry, be mad, be frustrated, be whatever it is. But go and do it,'" coach Slava Glazounov told Olympic Channel in October, of his words to his star pupil after missing out on her third Worlds appearance. "That’s how we’re approaching every day.”

A dream of a lifetime

If that’s how she’s approaching each day, thinking about making the U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo 2020 is how Hurd ends each night.

“I just always imagined myself being announced for the Olympic team,” said the 18-year-old. “Before I go to sleep, that's like almost all I can think about a lot of the times. I just keep playing scenarios over and over in my head.”

It’s a dream that could become a reality in late June at the U.S. Olympic Trials in St. Louis, Missouri, and a dream that has sharpened Hurd’s focus each day in training.

“I've been working very hard,” she said. “I come into practice kind of with a goal just to get my stuff done to the best of my capability, and not waste time and waste turns.”

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