There was a time where I was on top of the world as an elite gymnast with multiple college coaches contacting me. I was at my best– until I wasn’t anymore.
I found a love and joy in the sport of gymnastics at a young age. I loved the feeling of flying in the air and defying gravity. I loved the rush you feel right before you go out and compete in front of a crowd.
My whole life was in the gym. I knew nothing else besides gymnastics.
I was committed to do college gymnastics, having already won numerous meets in my career. I felt like I was unstoppable.
Then my back gave out.
I was finishing on bars, the last event of the meet, and all that I can remember is feeling an intense pain down my back. I was told that I released off of the bar and landed on my neck. They told me that I couldn’t move and paramedics would be there shortly.
The doctors told me that I had broken my back. I had broken my T11 vertebra and had to have surgery right away. I had two rods and four screws placed in my back between the T10 to T12. The doctors told me that gymnastics was off the table for me and that I was done competing.
I felt so lost. How was I supposed to go from training 35 hours a week to only laying on the couch because I couldn’t walk upstairs?
Gymnastics was my worth, my identity, my everything. I was experiencing life as a “normal” teenage highschool student but still not feeling complete. No one knew what I was going through, and I couldn’t accept myself.
I knew that I still wanted gymnastics to be in my life. I just didn’t know how. It took me walking back into the gym to know that my career wasn’t over.
Three months post-surgery, I was able to start trying to heal up my back just so I could do day-to-day activities like go to school and be a normal student. But I knew I wasn’t a normal student. Despite what the doctors said, I wanted to give gymnastics another chance.
Eight months later I was able to start training in the gym again.
I knew that I would never be the same gymnast I was before my accident. I wouldn’t be able to do certain skills or do certain events due to the limitations from my injury.
I truly lost my love for gymnastics while going through all this. I wasn’t sure if I would ever find it again.
It took me finding SUU and coach Scotty Bauman to find my love for gymnastics again.
I am now entering my junior year of college and my third year of competing for the Thunderbirds. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to compete collegiately in the sport that I had given my everything too.
Because of the coaching staff here I was able to compete and ended my sophomore year as the MRGC conference vault champion. I am honored that SUU gave me this opportunity and never gave up on me.
I do believe that gymnastics can be a brutal sport and test your abilities. I have four scars on my back that are a daily reminder of the faith and determination I had to have in order to make the impossible possible.
They remind me that gymnastics did hurt me and did test my abilities, but it wasn’t able to break me.
Story by: Morgan Alfaro
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communication