After 10 days in Tokyo, gymnast Emma Malabuyo is back in North Texas.
“It was just an honor being there and being chosen,” she said.
The 18-year-old from Flower Mound was an alternate for the U.S. Gymnastics team.
She had to return home within 24-hours of learning she wouldn't compete because of COVID-19 protocols.
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“We have to be prepared mentally, physically because you can be thrown into the competition or you can just go home and not compete at all so you kind of have to be ready either way,” Malabuyo said.
Three days after arriving in Tokyo, she says she had to isolate because another alternate gymnast, Kara Eaker, tested positive for COVID-19.
Malabuyo said she was only allowed out of her hotel room to train.
“We were so shocked because we had taken so many tests and we thought everyone was fine. We were wearing our masks the whole time,” she said.
As a five-time national team member, Malabuyo knows the pressure that comes with competing. But, she says the Olympics took a heavy emotional toll and admits she broke down in tears at trials.
“I haven't done that ever but it’s just something that people don't realize how hard it is on you and when you have the whole entire country praising Simone, ‘Oh, she's going to bring home the gold medal,’ I think all of that can add up,” Malabuyo said.
She said Simone made the right decision to step back from the team competition to focus on her mental health, and believes it sends a message to others facing similar struggles.
“Even the best make mistakes,” Malabuyo said.
Even under immense pressure at the Olympics, she said she would do it all over again.
Malabuyo will attend UCLA on a gymnastics scholarship in the fall