The three-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist announced her retirement Wednesday. Her career had been hampered by a series of injuries, and her latest comeback ended in May when she failed to qualify for the U.S. championships.
"It's sad to be officially be done competing and done doing gymnastics," Memmel said. "I'm proud of everything that I was able to accomplish. I had some untimely injuries, obviously. I'm just thrilled with everything I was able to do and how much I was able to compete for the U.S."
Memmel was at the forefront of the resurgence that turned the U.S. women an international powerhouse. She was part of the 2003 squad that won the country's first team title at worlds, and also tied for gold on uneven bars that year. She missed the Athens Olympics with a foot injury, but came back in 2005 to become the third U.S. woman — and first since Shannon Miller in 1994 — to win the world all-around title. Memmel added silvers on uneven bars and balance beam as the U.S. women won nine medals, still an American record for a single world championships.
She blew out her shoulder at the 2006 worlds, an injury that cost her most of the next 1½ years. She won a spot on the Beijing Olympic team, only to be limited to uneven bars in both qualifying and team finals because of what turned out to be a broken ankle. She re-injured her shoulder at the 2011 U.S. championships, and had two surgeries.
Memmel had hoped to make one more run at the Olympics, but her petition to compete at nationals was rejected after she fell twice on balance beam. Gymnastics fans were irate, and even started a petition urging USA Gymnastics to allow her to compete. But the protest fizzled.
"That was hard. That was really hard," Memmel said. "It wasn't necessarily the way I wanted to finish competing. But being able to be a part of the (post-Olympic) tour has helped with that. Just perform and have fun with it. Everything happens for a reason. It's just another thing I've had to go through."
The final shows of the 40-city tour are this weekend. Memmel said she and her father and coach, Andy, considered sticking around for next year's world championships, where competition will be limited to individual events. But she decided against it, unsure she'd have the support of national team coordinator Martha Karolyi.
Instead, the 24-year-old will continue the process of becoming a gymnastics judge, something she started last year. She'd also like to do some more coaching at her parents' gym in suburban Milwaukee, and wants to go back to school. She's also planning her Aug. 31 wedding.
"It's still weird to say I'm retiring, only being 24. But there's so many different opportunities out there and it's a big world," Memmel said. "I'm excited to start a new phase and get married and be a grown up. It scares me a little bit, but I'm just so lucky to have gymnastics in my life and just be a part of it and be able to accomplish everything that I did."