Canada's Gael Mackie, who recently completed her final season at the University of Utah, shares with IG how she regained her love for the sport after leaving the international scene.
2004 Canadian Olympian Gael Mackie, who recently completed her final season of competition at the University of Utah, reflects on the highs, lows and challenges of her long career.
Born Dec. 16, 1988, in Vancouver, Mackie hails from a family of gymnasts. Her physician parents, Susan and Bill, and her brother, Owen, are former gymnasts. Her younger sister, Charlotte, competed at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships.
Mackie, who won the 2002 Canadian junior all-around title and the 2003 Canadian senior all-around title, was the youngest member of the Canadian delegation at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. During her Elite career she was coached by Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin at Omega Gymnastics Academy.
In 2008 Mackie enrolled at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where she trained under co-head coaches Greg Marsden and two-time NCAA all-around champion Megan McCunniff Marsden. Mackie helped Utah place among the top six teams at the NCAA championships from 2008-2011, including a best finish of second place in 2008.
Mackie spoke with IG Online about her life in gymnastics – past, present and future.
IG: Looking back, what have been the most memorable parts of your career, in university and elite?
GM: This whole year at Utah has been especially memorable, but NCAA championships was particularly memorable because I had the meet of my life. I hit all my routines and ended my career with a 9.925 (on uneven bars). It was also memorable when I hit a clutch beam routine at regionals, and when I competed my floor routine this year in the Huntsman Center (at Utah) and the crowd exploded. Competing in the 2004 Olympic Games was the most memorable experience while I was in elite gymnastics.
IG: What were some of the most challenging phases of your career, and how did you navigate them?
GM: The last year of elite and the first year of university were tough years for me. I didn't really love the sport anymore and I was just hanging on because my goal was always to compete in college. I knew that I wasn't finished with gym yet, even though I thought about ending my career during those times.
Mackie on floor for the University of Utah
I took the summer off following my freshman year and then I fell in love with gymnastics again in my sophomore year. I think the time off in the summer has been key to overcoming injuries and, in my opinion, contributes to longevity in gymnastics. I fell in love with gymnastics and I loved going into the gym more than I ever had before. It's bittersweet now because I am retired, but I love gymnastics more than ever.
IG: How did you stay motivated when you were injured?
GM: Overcoming many injuries has also helped me stay in the sport. It is really hard to stay motivated, and in good physical shape, when you are injured. I was lucky because none of my injuries required too much time off, nor surgery and I had great doctors and therapists working with me.
However, even with a great team of doctors, coaches and parents to support me, a huge part of dealing with injuries is motivation from within, and I did have a lot of that. In fact, one of the reasons why bars is my strongest event, I believe, is because I frequently injured my ankles when I was younger and therefore trained a ton of bars and got all my basics and skills.
IG: What are your plans for this summer and beyond?
GM: I am staying in Salt Lake for most of the summer and plan on coaching, choreographing, finishing my last few courses and maybe some stunt work. After graduating, I plan on being a yoga instructor and working in the Marketing/PR field back at home in Vancouver, and maybe do some movie stunts in between!
IG: How involved in gymnastics do you plan to stay?
GM: Gymnastics is so much a part of me, and I plan on staying closely involved in any way I can. For now I am really enjoying choreography and coaching.
Gael Mackie is featured in the following issues of International Gymnast Magazine:
"Canadian Standout" – Gael Mackie profile (January 2003)
"Pride for Family and Canada" – Charlotte Mackie profile, includes Gael (November 2006)
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