Adopted as a toddler from China, Morgan Hurd is now America’s great hope after winning all-around world gymnastics title
Bespectacled 16-year-old makes a stunning world championships debut, snatching a surprise gold medal
US teenager Morgan Hurd launched herself into the world spotlight by snatching a surprise women’s all-around gold at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Montreal.
The bespectacled 16-year-old was born in Wuzhou in Guangxi, China, in 2001 and adopted as a toddler by mother Sherri Hurd, of Middletown, Delaware.
Morgan started gymnastics at the age of three and is now considered the next generation of elite performers in the United States.
Her mother told Flogymnastics. com: “We tried ice skating, T-ball, soccer, but she kept coming back to gymnastics. Because Morgan was small in comparison to other kids her age, I found that she could do well at it.
“She’s determined. I don’t know where that comes from. I think it’s one of those things that comes from inside.
“She has a vision about what she wants to do and she knows she has to put in the work to do it. She sacrifices a lot.”
Hurd’s spectacular rise has put her on course for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, something she has dreamt about since an early age.
“I definitely thought about being there [Rio] last year, but I’m glad I was too young because it gave me more time to develop my gymnastics,” she said.
Watch: It feels so crazy, says Morgan Hurd
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) October 7, 2017
The tiny 4-foot 5-inch (1.37-metre) Hurd stands out because she is one of the few gymnasts – if not the only one – to wear spectacles.
“I tried contacts, but they made my eyeballs dry, and when I got stuff in my eyes, I had to take them out and put them back in,” said Hurd, who has committed to the University of Florida for 2019-20.
Hurd followed in the footsteps of celebrated compatriot Simone Biles – ably shouldering US hopes after national champion Ragan Smith withdrew minutes before the competition in Montreal with an ankle injury.
It was a stunning world championships debut for Hurd, who was sixth at the P&G Championships in California in August but secured a place on the four-member US team for the championships at a selection camp in September.
“It’s crazy that I was even competing here,” Hurd said. “To think that I won is just the most surreal feeling in the world.”
Hurd won with a total of 55.232 points, beating home hope Ellie Black of Canada, who took silver with 55.132. Russian Elena Eremina was third with 54.799.
Hurd sealed the win with her final routine, the floor exercise, erasing a deficit of two-tenths of a point to surpass Black.
It was a disappointment to fans at the 1976 Olympic venue, but Black became the first Canadian gymnast, man or woman, to win an Olympic or world all-around medal.
The competition lacked the top-four finishers from last year’s Rio Games.
Two competitors touted as favourites going into the week were also absent – Smith and Romania’s Laris Iordache.
Smith left on crutches after hurting herself warming up for her opening vault.
USA Gymnastics said she was taken to hospital for X-rays.
Iordache, a two-time world all-around medallist, tore an Achilles’ tendon warming up for floor exercise before qualifying on Wednesday – three days after Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura pulled out of the men’s qualifying with torn ligament in his ankle.
In Uchimura’s absence, China’s Xiao Ruoteng won the men’s all-around title on Thursday.
Men and women will be back on Saturday and Sunday for individual apparatus finals.