To be Known and Loved – the Story of Mattie Larson.


What do you do when the American dream doesn’t come true? When you work hard, harder than most people can ever imagine, and it just never quite comes together for you? When everyone expects you to be a sensation? When you win – and then fail- on the largest stage in your field?

That is the story of Mattie Larson. Mattie was a celebrated junior, who showed so much promise. A talented all around gymnast, Mattie was most beloved for her floor. She showed so much pizazz and artistry, in the midst of incredibly beautiful and difficult tumbling. And she drew you into her performance, mesmerized with her loveliness. Just the kind of story we Americans love, a young protege who begins to delight us with her prowess.

But even in the midst of that, Mattie was plagued with injury. She missed out on the 2008 Olympics due to a leg injury and worked her way through 2009 battling injuries as well. Then 2010 finally seemed to be her year. After dazzling America with a charming and powerful performance at Nationals, Mattie fell short on the world stage – twice. Her falls on floor were costly in America’s bid for the World gold, and the backlash against her seemed to be more than she could bare.

But even with her failure, America loves Mattie. In a world of trash talking about gymnasts, people root for Mattie. We so want her to succeed. We know her. And we love her just the same.

Mattie decided to leave elite level gymnastics after that, and turned to NCAA. To Miss Val, who had known and loved Mattie since she was seven years old. It seemed that with Miss Val’s loving tutelage, and their power combination of incredible choreographer and dazzling performer, it would finally be Mattie’s time to shine.

And Miss Val’s influence did seem to help Mattie in the mental aspects of the sport. The brought together two delightful floor routines. But in the end, it was not to be at UCLA either. Plagued with injury still, she never really found her stride. Even so, we continue to love Mattie and root for her to succeed.

What is it about Mattie Larson that we all love? Of course, there is the obvious answer. She has dynamic, beautiful gymnastics, gorgeous lines and enchanting performance abilities. But I think it goes beyond that. There is so much in Mattie that we can relate to.

There are the gymnasts out there who seem to be so mentally strong, nothing seems to rattle them. We love that about them, but most of us cannot really relate. We would be rattled. There are they gymnasts out there that love the sacrifice and discipline of training. They seem to be super-human in their ability to train and train – and love it. And we love them for it, but most of us cannot really relate. We would give up. There are gymnasts out there who seem to have issues in training, but when the pressure is on, they always come through. They shine under the the pressure that most of us would crumble under.

Mattie has so much brilliance, so much potential. And yet she misses. In life, we miss so much more than we come through in the clinch. We could be brilliant, but for whatever reason – physical, mental, emotional- we are not. We are rattled, we give up, we crumble. Yes, we love those that shine. But we often identify more with the agony of failure than the glow of success. Will any of us ever forget the look on Mattie’s face when she walked off the floor of team finals in 2010? We remember it so vividly because it is a feeling we have all had.

But we do not love Mattie because she fails. We love Mattie because despite her failures, she keeps trying. And has moments of beautiful, shining success. Sometimes, life comes together for us. The stars align, and all of our hard work pays off at just the right moment. Most of the time, it doesn’t. In Mattie, we see how to live authentically, with passion in the midst of both times in life.

We know Mattie. And we love her.

But what is as inspiring to us as Mattie, is the love and wisdom she has received from Miss Val, who has seem to constantly inspire and pick Mattie up. Who brought out the very best in her. And who helped her know when to retire with as much grace and dignity as she performed. When should Mattie quit? When gymnastics no longer brought her joy. When the part of it she loved became stale.

International Gymnastics did a great interview with Mattie that captures it well. 

I think it was a whole process since I’ve been at UCLA. I’ve known Miss Val (Kondos Field) and Chris since I was about 7, and they’ve known that, yes, I’ve had a lot of success in gymnastics, but it’s taken an emotional toll. It’s not an easy sport. My process here at UCLA made me feel that I could finally have a voice and make decisions for myself. For a while, I think I was ready to move on, and they finally gave me the chance to do so. I couldn’t imagine making this decision anywhere else or at any other time. I finally got clarity.

The most important thing that Mattie has, is that she is known – for her failures AND her successes – and loved despite them both. And in the end, that is a pretty amazing thing.

2 comments on “To be Known and Loved – the Story of Mattie Larson.

  1. THE MATTIE LARSON STORY HAS JUST STARTED AND SHE’S WRITING THE BOOK! THE INTRODUCTION AND THE FIRST CHAPTERS ARE STILL BEING WRITTEN! PLEASE TAKE NOTE, A YOUNG LADY OF SUBSTANCE IS WRITING IT HER OWN WAY!!!!

    Long before UCLA began courting Mattie Larson, I’ve known this beautiful, brilliant, and talented human being since she came into this world. Mattie has charmed everyone since. Any young girl who starts and stays with Gymnastics from the age of 5 or 6 years old for…for 17 years, and who is uniquely developing herself into a “young lady of substance” …….and, in doing so, along the way, as a Gymnast, achieves rarefied Elite Status…this is the definition of a PHENOMENAL SUCCESS AND WINNER by ANY standards, including gymnastic standards. But, Mattie doesn’t stop there, she’s used her 17 years of hard work, sacrifice and achievement to gain an education at UCLA! Very few athletes make it to Elite Status in Gymnastics and make it on to the UCLA Gymnastic Team, Mattie did both! Think of the hours, starting at age 5 or 6, that Mattie spent her “carefree childhood” at gyms in LA, almost every day for 17 years…when most young girls are doing “sleepovers,” shopping, concerts and fun “school related” activities. Mattie Larson’s sacrifice and the 17 years she invested…..make her a true Champion and Winner…..importantly, because she learned and gained “grown up” life lessons from the discipline, the sport and her unique life experience on a National and International Stage! Mattie became strong enough to make her own decisions! Google or YouTube her development, poise and her ability to communicate in numerous TV and Print Interviews over the years; (If I were an Agent for TV, I would knock on Mattie’s door quickly!); note her growth as a friend and as a team member; Ask Mattie’s friends, her team members, school mates….what’s Mattie like? Oh, and by the way: On her “Athletic Biography / Resume,” here are a few Mattie Larson “Honorable Mentions”:
    Member of the U.S. National Team; 2010 National Champion on Floor Exercise; Winner of the All-Around Title at the Cover Girl Classic 2010;
    Competed for the UCLA Bruins from 2012 through 2014;
    2010 World Championships: 2nd team
    2009 World Cup, Montreal, Canada: 1st beam; 1st floor
    2008 Friendship International Exchange: 4th all-around; 2nd floor
    2008 Gymnix International: 1st team; 2nd all-around; 3rd bars
    2007 Junior Pan American Championships: 1st team; 1st all-around; 2nd bars; 1st floor.
    National: 2012 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships:
    2010 US Nationals: 2nd all-around; 3rd bars; 1st floor;
    2008 US Olympic Trials: 7th all-around; 6th floor;
    2008 Visa Championships (US Nationals): 7th all-around; 3rd floor.

    We live in a media “hyped” narrow definition of what “Winning” is. Often times, it’s left to one or two people, “Judges” or those “in charge”…it can be subjective…..even in gymnastics….that’s life. TV is riddled with Competition Shows…..we seem obsessed with asking “Who won?” A True Winner keeps changing, growing, “throwing themselves “back into the race”…….a new race and a new challenge. At a very young age, Mattie Larson has been blessed and fortunate to have learned what really counts, what is important in life, ….Mattie is making her own decisions, listening to her voice within….already wiser than most and a stunning young lady, Mattie continues on her own path in this adventure we call LIFE. Keep on writing this story and living this dream Mattie Larson!!!!!
    Mattie, I am so proud of you!
    David H. Frost

  2. THE MATTIE LARSON STORY HAS JUST STARTED AND SHE’S WRITING THE BOOK! THE INTRODUCTION AND THE FIRST CHAPTERS ARE STILL BEING WRITTEN! PLEASE TAKE NOTE, A YOUNG LADY OF SUBSTANCE IS WRITING IT HER OWN WAY!!!!

    Long before UCLA began courting Mattie Larson, I’ve known this beautiful, brilliant, and talented human being since she came into this world. Mattie has charmed everyone since. Any young girl who starts and stays with Gymnastics from the age of 5 or 6 years old for…for 17 years, and who is uniquely developing herself into a “young lady of substance” …….and, in doing so, along the way, as a Gymnast, achieves rarefied Elite Status…this is the definition of a PHENOMENAL SUCCESS AND WINNER by ANY standards, including gymnastic standards. But, Mattie doesn’t stop there, she’s used her 17 years of hard work, sacrifice and achievement to gain an education at UCLA! Very few athletes make it to Elite Status in Gymnastics and make it on to the UCLA Gymnastic Team, Mattie did both! Think of the hours, starting at age 5 or 6, that Mattie spent her “carefree childhood” at gyms in LA, almost every day for 17 years…when most young girls are doing “sleepovers,” shopping, concerts and fun “school related” activities. Mattie Larson’s sacrifice and the 17 years she invested…..make her a true Champion and Winner…..importantly, because she learned and gained “grown up” life lessons from the discipline, the sport and her unique life experience on a National and International Stage! Mattie became strong enough to make her own decisions! Google or YouTube her development, poise and her ability to communicate in numerous TV and Print Interviews over the years; (If I were an Agent for TV, I would knock on Mattie’s door quickly!); note her growth as a friend and as a team member; Ask Mattie’s friends, her team members, school mates….what’s Mattie like? Oh, and by the way: On her “Athletic Biography / Resume,” here are a few Mattie Larson “Honorable Mentions”:
    Member of the U.S. National Team; 2010 National Champion on Floor Exercise; Winner of the All-Around Title at the Cover Girl Classic 2010;
    Competed for the UCLA Bruins from 2012 through 2014;
    2010 World Championships: 2nd team
    2009 World Cup, Montreal, Canada: 1st beam; 1st floor
    2008 Friendship International Exchange: 4th all-around; 2nd floor
    2008 Gymnix International: 1st team; 2nd all-around; 3rd bars
    2007 Junior Pan American Championships: 1st team; 1st all-around; 2nd bars; 1st floor.
    National: 2012 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships:
    2010 US Nationals: 2nd all-around; 3rd bars; 1st floor;
    2008 US Olympic Trials: 7th all-around; 6th floor;
    2008 Visa Championships (US Nationals): 7th all-around; 3rd floor.

    We live in a media “hyped” narrow definition of what “Winning” is. Often times, it’s left to one or two people, “Judges” or those “in charge”…it can be subjective…..even in gymnastics….that’s life. TV is riddled with Competition Shows…..we seem obsessed with asking “Who won?” A True Winner keeps changing, growing, “throwing themselves “back into the race”…….a new race and a new challenge. At a very young age, Mattie Larson has been blessed and fortunate to have learned what really counts, what is important in life, ….Mattie is making her own decisions, listening to her voice within….already wiser than most and a stunning young lady, Mattie continues on her own path in this adventure we call LIFE. Keep on writing this story and living this dream Mattie Larson!!!!!
    Mattie, I am so proud of you!
    David H. Frost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s