Brody MaloneGymnasticsNews

A Devastating Injury Threatened To Halt Brody Malone’s Gymnastics Career; Today He’s Poised To Lead Team USA In Paris

by Blythe Lawrence

Broady Malone during podium training ahead of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics on June 25, 2024 in Minneapolis.

Brody Malone was still in the air, but he knew it had gone wrong.

His hands slipped off the high bar early as he went in for his dismount at the DTB Cup in Germany in March of last year. Accustomed to being in total control flying through the dozen feet of open space separating bar and mat, this time Malone felt himself hurtling haphazardly through the air.

In the split second before his body hit the ground, Malone still thought he could land safely. It might not be pretty, but he figured he would be okay.

That painful miscalculation cost the 2022 world high bar champion the rest of his 2023 season and cast his 2024 Olympic aspirations into doubt. The botched landing ripped up his right knee — full diagnosis: torn meniscus, tibial plateau fracture, partially torn posterior cruciate ligament, fully torn lateral collateral ligament — and resulted in three surgeries, weeks of bedrest and more familiarity with crutches than he ever wanted.

“I couldn’t really get up and move around, which for me sucked because I’m a busybody; I like to be up and moving,” he said. 

It was several months before Malone was able to walk, let alone think about tumbling, which made winning his third U.S. title in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this month that much more impressive. His leg might have broken, but Malone’s fighting spirit never ruptured.

“I don’t like to lose,” he said in the southern drawl that characterizes his sound bites. “It drives me and makes me work hard. I didn’t come here to just show up and compete. I wanted to win.”

Just how much became clear after Malone hit his high bar routine on the first night of the championships to re-establish himself as the man to beat. When he stuck his high bar dismount, his normally impenetrable demeanor vanished, and for a few seconds Malone became a whooping, hollering, fist-pumping bundle of glee shaking off months of pent-up energy and frustration.

Take that, high bar dismount. Take that, crutches.

“I just let myself go and it was awesome; I enjoyed it,” he said. “Going through what I’ve gone through, I’ve definitely learned to be grateful for every opportunity I have to compete. So with that I’m just letting loose a little bit more and having a lot more fun.”

Brody Malone during men's podium training at 2024 U.S Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics in Minneapolis. (Photo by Team USA)

Excessive displays of emotion are rare from the Tennessee-born, Georgia-raised 24-year-old who can seem as much cowboy as gymnast. John Brody Malone hails from a family of rodeo competitors — both his father and younger brother both did it at the collegiate level — and he dabbled in it as a child before deciding to focus on gymnastics and see where it took him. 

The answer was Stanford University, one of the country’s top gymnastics programs, where he became a 10-time NCAA champion. From there, he vaulted onto the U.S. team, taking the leadership reins from six-time national champion Sam Mikulak, who now helps coach Malone at EVO Gymnastics in Florida.

Malone’s Paris preparation has been limited on floor exercise and vault, the events that punish his knee the most. He swallows some pain when he trains and has to wear a brace when he competes, but he has come to terms with it. When he stepped onto the floor in Fort Worth, it was with the knowledge that he had done fewer than five full routines on a hard surface since the injury.

He was all right with that.

“My approach on floor and vault is looking a little bit different. I’m not trying to get as much difficulty on those events. I’m trying to just do a little bit easier routine and just hit and be clean,” he explained. 

After all, doing the exercise at all still seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the year, when it looked like he might never compete on all six apparatus again.

“It just feels amazing with everything I’ve gone through to make a comeback like I have,” he said, grinning.

Improbably, he is right back where he was when he began that high bar routine in Germany: the national champion, hoping and striving for more.

The last step in his journey to a second Olympic Games takes place this weekend when the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics are held in Minneapolis.

Does he think about winning something in Paris? Well, yes and no. Yes because it’s the Olympics and that’s what everybody dreams of. The U.S. men ended a nine-year medal drought by winning team bronze in 2023, and that was without Malone. Having him back potentially makes them even more competitive.

On the flip side, he’s just happy to be in this position again. 

“I came in with the mindset that I just need to do my gymnastics and let the scores fall where they do. I’m not coming in thinking oh gosh, I’ve got to win this, I’ve got to win this,” he said. “It’s just do my own thing, do the gymnastics that I’ve been preparing in the gym, and that I’ve put so many numbers into. That’s my approach.”

Somehow, he got the timing right. Paris is beckoning and against all odds, and Malone looks ready.