Abandoned Baby Becomes Elite US Gymnast

By Shiwen Rong

NEWARK, Delaware—Approaching the door of First State Gymnastics Inc., there are pictures of Morgan Hurd is covering the hall. A life-size poster of her winning the 2017 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships greets everyone coming into the gym.

Morgan is the first elite gymnast from Delaware and First State Gymnastics.

“There is not really a secret,” Morgan Hurd said about the success. “Just dedication and a lot of hard work.”

Her small stature and being the only gymnast with glasses makes her different than others on the floor, and the heartwarming story behind the 5-time world medalist makes her stand out from others.

Eighteen years ago, Morgan was left on the steps of a hospital in Wuzhou, China, when she was a toddler. Fate brought her to a loving family and she has become a shining star today.

“I’m lucky enough to be adopted in such a great family and live such a great life,” said Morgan.

Sherri Hurd, mother of Morgan, had always wanted a child.

“I want her to know that she was the best decision that I ever made in life,” said Sherri. “She’s priceless.”

artistic gymnastics World Championship 2017
Morgan Hurd of The United States of America (C) and other winners pose with their medals during the women’s individual all-around final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 6, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The FedEx Baby

Sherri started looking into international adoptions, and her first meeting with the adoption agency was about China.

She met a couple who had just brought back their child from China.

“I was like, wow, I could do that.” She was convinced after listening to their journey. “I just knew that I would have this beautiful daughter in China. And I could give her a life, a good life.”

After tons of paperwork and months of waiting, the day finally came after about two years. Sherri still remembers that day like yesterday.

“They told me, my FedEx package was coming, which actually had all of Morgan’s information.” It was coming from China.

That day, she waited on the FedEx delivery man.

“He got out of his truck. And he was coming up my sidewalk. And I said, ‘Can you wait?'” she said with a laugh. “Can I take a picture of you? … My baby is in that package.”

Morgan Hurd
Morgan Hurd when she was 7 months old. (Sherri Hurd)

All of Morgan’s information and pictures were in that package. “I remember I had 24 hours to decide whether she was the baby I wanted to adopt.” Sherri knew this was her baby.

Another two months passed and finally, Sherri arrived in China through Hong Kong to pick up her girl.

“And they literally went into a hotel room … one by one they came out and handed us our baby,” she recalls. “I was family number four.”

“Morgan was crying, crying, and crying, and crying,” Sherri remembered. The little girl didn’t realize she’d have a home yet.

After about 8 hours of crying, she finally stopped and fell asleep. The second morning, she woke up with a smile on her face.

“That was really it… we were bonded,” said Sherri. “She didn’t want to go anywhere without me at that point.”

Morgan Hurd Gymnast
Sherri never realized how much she could love a child as she loves Morgan (Sherri Hurd)

Sherri never realized how much she could love a child until she had Morgan. “She means everything to me, there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for my child.”

Small Girl, Big Dreams

When Morgan was 3 years old, Sherri put her into different sports to keep her active. She tried soccer, tee-ball, ice skating, ballet, and gymnastics.

Gradually, as she grew older, she quit other sports, but gymnastics was always the one that she wanted to come back to.

“Gymnastics is a very love-hate relationship,” said Morgan. “We hate it because it’s very difficult, and it’s very time consuming, and it’s tiring. But at the same time, we wouldn’t know what to do without it.”

At the age of 6, she started to train with coach Slava Glazounov, who is still her coach now.

Fifteen years later, now she’s a proud member of the United States women’s national team.

“I never really thought that I was capable of that much. I was just grateful to be named to the world’s team,” she recalls the moment she won the medal in 2017.

Morgan Hurd Gymnastics
Morgan Hurd from Delaware became an elite gymnast in 2014. (Sherri Hurd)

Reaching this far is not without difficulties.

“I always keep my goal in my mind, and keep telling myself, ‘You want it to be all worth it,'” she said.

“There have been times in the past I have thought about quitting. But then I just remember that I have a goal and I want to achieve it,” said Morgan.

Outside of the gym, she tries not to think about gymnastics, but just enjoy her time with books and friends.

“I’ll do other activities just to distract myself from it. And when I’m in the gym, I just focus on doing one skill at a time,” she said.

For Morgan, gymnastics at this level is a mental battle.

But she has a dream, and she will work hard and do her best to make that dream come true, said Sherri.

“I always want people to know that she drove that bus from that time moving forward. She had visions and dreams of what she wanted to do and accomplish. And then I was just there to fuel the bus.”

Coach Slava has been training her for more than nine years, going through many ups and downs.

“She is this special young lady, different from most, very determined, focused, committed to gymnastics,” he said. “Gymnastics is about falling down and getting up, and she knows it.”

Exploring Her Roots

Morgan Hurd and Sherri Hurd
Morgan Hurd and Sherri Hurd (Sherri Hurd)

Morgan finished her school this year and is planning to attend the college in Florida after a year fully focused on gymnastics.

“I don’t want to let her go, to be honest,” said coach Slava.

Morgan hasn’t decided yet what to study, as besides gymnastics, there isn’t anything that really attracts her.

“A lot of my friends want to become a physical therapist or something like that, and that just never really interested me,” she said.

But one thing she is sure.

“I do want to visit China,” she said. “My mom said she would take me after I graduated high school. But she said that before I was super involved in gymnastics, so I’ll have to just postpone that for now. But I do eventually want to go.”

Morgan said she has never thought about finding her biological parents, as she was left without any information.

The only thing she still wonders is why she was abandoned.

“I’m not even resentful, or anger or anything … Just out of pure curiosity,” she said.

But that is okay for Morgan, as she is happy with what she has now.

“My mom is very supportive,” she said. “She’s always there for me.”

Soon they are both looking forward to visiting China again, now after 18 years, and getting reacquainted with the culture.