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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Swinging back into the groove

    Arizona gymnast Alexis Greene chills among foam landing blocks in the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center on Monday.
    Arizona gymnast Alexis Greene chills among foam landing blocks in the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center on Monday.

    A few days after the then-No. 8 Arizona gymnastics team triumphed over then-No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. last year, UA gymnast Alexis Greene was practicing a floor routine in the Gymcats training facility back in Tucson.

    On her first tumbling pass, her Achilles’ tendon was sore but she thought nothing of it. On her final pass as she punched the ground, it tore – seemingly out of nowhere – causing her to face plant onto the exercise floor.

    And that was the painful part.

    “”Tearing my Achilles didn’t hurt and that’s because I tore it the whole way,”” Greene said. “”If I (had torn) it partially, it would have caused excruciating pain, so I guess I’m thankful I tore it all the way.””

    In an instant, Greene’s sophomore season was finished, but by no stretch was her career over. She never even considered it.

    “”I always thought (the rehabilitation) was hard,”” said Greene, a junior. “”I knew it was gonna be hard. (But) quitting wasn’t an option. I love gymnastics and only have (two) more years left and I wasn’t gonna quit because I got hurt.

    “”That’s part of being an athlete, not just gymnastics,”” she added. “”People get hurt, so quitting would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have let me do what I want to do.””

    For Greene, rehab was a long and arduous process, a process that required her to re-learn everything, including how to walk and run again. But first she had to get out of a cast and walking boot.

    It took Greene six months before she could do anything. After that, she started a rehabilitation program in which she worked out three times a week, doing the little things like picking up foam pieces with her toes. It wasn’t an easy process, she said.

    Despite her struggle to return to action, her confidence that she’d return never faded and neither did her smile – at least not in the gym.

    “”She’s a very happy kid,”” said UA head coach Bill Ryden. “”But you (didn’t) really know inside if something (was) bugging her. She (has) a passion and desire, but she’s not like some kids who come out and say, ‘This stinks. I want to come back. Blah, blah, blah.’

    “”She never really said that, but you could tell that she wasn’t as happy as usual,”” Ryden added. “”She’s a very happy kid, she’s the type of girl who’s always smiling, no matter what. So it’s just drudgery to come back – pain and drudgery. So no one really expected her to smile.””

    Greene always kept her attitude positive and upbeat during her rehab, even if it took a little extra effort to smile.

    “”Me sulking in the gym about being hurt wouldn’t have helped anybody,”” she said. “”There’s nothing that can be done about it and why would I want to bring everyone else down?””

    When the team traveled, Greene was forced to stay in Tucson and that was the worst, she said.

    “”Having to watch the meet online and wondering, ‘What’s happening? What’s happening? I wish I could do something.’

    “”There were days where I would be so close to crying, wishing that I wasn’t doing this anymore, wishing that I was better, so obviously there were bad days, but for the most part I tried to keep in good spirits.””

    Her teammates, her family, her desire

    Little seemed to change for Greene. She never really saw any physical improvement, but her determination to return never wavered. Her teammates, her family and her drive and desire to return wouldn’t allow it.

    “”My teammates (were) always supporting me and (they were) always being so upbeat about it,”” Greene said. “”They would be cheering for me to be picking up little foam pieces with my foot and I’m like ‘I’m only doing something stupid,’ but they were still cheering for me and the coaches were always (showing their support).

    “”My family has always supported me, always. My brother would call me to see how I was doing and my mom would still come to the meets to support the team, even though I wasn’t competing.””

    Junior Beamer Bergeson, Greene’s roommate, saw her in her best and worst of times.

    “”In the gym she (always kept) her personality and was happy,”” Bergeson said. “”But (at home) she’d talk about how hard it (was) to be out. Nine months of doing nothing is just crazy. I’ve never been hurt like that so I don’t know what it’s like to come back from nine months of nothing, but she’s worked really hard, it’s inspirational.””

    Eight months after her initial injury, Greene finally had the boot taken off, and everything started to come back as she was finally allowed to train again.

    When she returned to practice, however, her team was training at the nearby Tumbleweeds Gymnastics – a facility that lacked some of the resources needed to return from injury – during the completion of Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center. Greene admitted that while the time at Tumbleweeds didn’t help her return faster, it wasn’t too much of a burden, either.

    “”I’ve come back from an injury in a club gym before because I’ve trained in a club gym, so it made it a little harder, but I’ll never say the reason I didn’t get back as quickly was because of Tumbleweeds, because that’s not it,”” she said. “”It didn’t help, but it didn’t hurt. They just don’t have all the equipment we have in our gym.””

    Throughout the rehab, Greene just wanted to pick up where she had left off, and to be able to compete in the vault, floor and bars, like she had before. She wanted to perform well enough to make up for the lost season.

    Back and better than ever

    Greene performed better than she had ever imagined. She won the all-around title in both of her first two meets back from injury – also the first two meets of this season – a first in her collegiate career.

    Did she ever think she was going to be capable of such a feat?

    “”No, I never thought that,”” Greene said, laughing. “”I wanted to be at least what I was in the past, I never expected to be doing the allaround and then be winning the all-around.””

    Ryden echoed Greene’s feeling about her accomplishments thus far this season.

    “”It’s phenomenal,”” he said. “”And the thing that’s phenomenal about it is that she’s not as good on floor as she was, but she’s actually better on the vault and beam than before the injury. She had to train harder and pay attention to detail, and who knows, maybe nine months off sort of rekindles the fire. Whatever it is, I don’t know, but she’s a better gymnast.””

    ‘It’s definitely been inspirational’

    Greene hopes if her teammates learned anything from her injury, it’s that “”crisis isn’t always going to be negative.

    “”Without my teammates supporting me throughout my injuries, maybe it wouldn’t have turned out so well for me,”” Greene said. “”So they know whether it’s little or something like tearing an Achilles’, we’ll be there as a team to support each other.””

    Greene’s teammates however, have already taken their own lessons from her difficult journey back.

    “”She’s phenomenal,”” said senior Karin Wurm. “”It’s definitely been inspirational for every person on the team, from the seniors looking down at her and for the freshman to see someone who had had such an extreme injury – tearing your Achilles’ – which for many people is career-ending and to come back and to be so strong is awesome.””

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