At big meets like the U.S. Championships, when gymnasts aren't training, competing, resting and signing autographs, they're talking to the media. And talking. And talking. After competition, athletes are herded into a backstage "mixed zone" where they sit on chairs in front of a wallpaper of sponsor logos and answer questions into the tape recorders/iPhones/video cameras of the assembled reporters.
You hear a lot of "I just tried to have fun out there" and "I just wanted to do my best." You also get more interesting sentiments, even the occasional moment of raw emotion. Those are, in the parlance of journalism, the "money quotes."
Here's a sampling from the 2013 Nationals that were:
"He's eight weeks old. Of course he's better on pommel horse than me." -- Jonathan Horton on newborn son David, to NBC
"So @scottbregman and @laurenjessa are reviewing the code of points. To understand it, I just slammed my head into the nearest concrete wall." -- Associated Press reporter @WillGravesAP on Twitter
"We have our makeup on and our lip gloss. We look good. We're having fun. But, really, we're these tough, bad-ass girls working so hard to accomplish our dreams." -- McKayla Maroney on how gymnasts look vs. how they are, to The Hartford Courant
"I don't even know where I am in the standings because I'm so (ticked) off." -- 2011 U.S. champion Danell Leyva on his placement after day one, to the Associated Press (He was sixth.)
“I got second place five times in a row before I won this thing. It was frustrating. I’m still not happy about it.” -- Jonathan Horton on perseverance, to the Connecticut Journal-Inquirer
"It's gorgeous. I almost passed out." -- McKayla Maroney on Kyla Ross's bar routine, to the Associated Press
''I'm going to have a good time for once instead of stressing." -- John Orozco to Yahoo Sports on his goals in Hartford
"Last year I didn't actually have a clue what was going on, I was just there in the moment. This year I have expectations. I have pressure. I know exactly what I need to be doing here." -- Laurie Hernandez to The Hartford Courant
"I'm going to stay up really late – like till 11 [p.m.] I'll probably play elevator tag...I'll probably get kicked out and have to go back home. It is probably going to be a whole thing." -- Laurie Hernandez on celebrating her second place finish in the Junior women's division, to The Hartford Currant