But despite having no first-hand knowledge of the sport, gymnasts have always had my utmost respect as athletes. The uneven parallel bars in women's gymnastics are nuts. Flying back and forth between the two bars finds me flinching when watching.
I have also throughout the years seen some incredibly brave performances in the sport. Arguably one of the gutsiest in all of sports is when Kerri Strug nailed her vault on an injured ankle to help the United States win the gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
She could hardly walk yet found the courage to sprint down the runway, vault up in the air and nail the landing. It was the defining moment of those Olympic Games.
When I recently learned of the story of Amador Valley senior Mia Reeve, I could only think back to Strug.
Reeve competed for the Ultimate Sports Connection club team out of Concord. Like every other high school athlete, she had been somewhat limited as to what she could do during COVID-19 times.
As things opened back up, the team was able to practice, with the Spirit of the Flame meet being the final meet of Reeve's career on the calendar.
The only problem was that Reeve had a heavy brace on her wrist due to a bone and cartilage injury. But with one meet left in her gymnastics career, Reeve approached training with a mission.
"The element of having a finish line was motivation," Reeve said of her last meet. "I had a lot of support from my coaches and teammates."
But there was the issue of the bad wrist.
"I just had to power through," she said.
What Reeve did was learn to do her routines with one arm. One arm -- amazing. She still had to do the vault and the bars with two arms, but in the beam and floor, she competed only using her good arm/wrist.
That meant any flips or round-offs on the floor were to be done using one arm. On the vault, she had to use a modified plant with both hands, lessening the impact on the bad wrist.
As for the bars -- she just had to fight through the pain.
"Honestly, I didn't have any crazy expectations," Reeve said. "I only got the routines down a couple of days before the meet. I didn't even get a chance to warm up for the bars."
Maybe she should have had high expectations. Her competitors were in awe.
"There was an element of disbelief," Reeve said of the onlookers when she started performing.
In an event where just competing one final time was the goal, Reeve came out and amazed the field. In the Level 8 event, Reeve finished first in the vault, third on the floor, fourth on the beam and fifth all-around.
"It was gratitude and overall satisfaction of what the last 13 years have meant," Reeve said. "It was so great just to be able to compete."
In a time where so many complain about the hand they have been dealt instead of finding a solution, Reeve embraced her challenge, found a way to work through it and came back blazing.
It is a tremendous story of resilience that others could learn from. In unprecedented times, Reeve didn't back down, didn't cower, but stared down her adversity.
Now with her gymnastics career complete, Reeve wants to help others have the same experience she has had with the sport.
"I want to work this summer at the club as a coach," Reeve said. "Gymnastics has given me such a great foundation I want to be able to give back to the younger gymnasts."
This story contains 651 words.
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