It’s elite season but also injuries season — Thoughts from Chad’s assistant coach

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, May 11, 2024

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! International elite season is heating up with the Olympics on the horizon. But this exciting time is marred this year by what seems to be an unusual number of very severe, season-ending (and Olympic dream-smashing) injuries to some top athletes. 

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The Gadirova twins, Jennifer and Jessica, are likely both out of consideration for Paris; both played key roles in Great Britain’s team bronze medal in Tokyo. Jessica tore her ACL at worlds last year and is still rehabbing from surgery. Jennifer had ankle surgery. Jessica posted a five-month post-op video of her performing a back handspring on a tumble track this week:

Poppy Stickler, also of Team GB, sustained a back fracture and an avulsion fracture to her hip. She too will miss out on Paris; hopefully we will be able to see her at Utah next season. 

And British star Ondine Achampong tore her ACL and is out for Paris. Major blow for a team looking to pick up another medal there.

Australia’s Georgia Godwin, a huge factor in that team’s rise over the last several years, tore her Achilles. She will also miss the Olympics. 

Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz and Emma Malewski have been rehabbing a torn Achilles and a torn foot ligament, respectively. 

Team Japan has dealt with injuries to Watanabe Hazuki (knee), Sakaguchi Ayuki (Achilles) and Yamaguchi Sara (ACL) this year. None are expected to be back for Paris. 

Belgium’s Nina Derwael dislocated her shoulder before she was supposed to star at a hometown worlds in Antwerp last year. She recovered enough to nab an Olympic apparatus spot on beam through the World Cup series, but we don’t know whether she’ll be back on her signature (and medal-winning) bars yet. 

Zoe Miller of the United States announced her retirement from elite gymnastics after a shoulder injury. She will now focus on NCAA gymnastics and joining LSU this fall.  

Finally, Italy: The team has a history of injuries followed by too-speedy re-entry into competition, too many competitions and more injuries. Asia D’Amato, who tore her ACL at the Cairo World Cup in 2023, tore it again at Euros and won’t make it to Paris. Martina Maggio and Giorgia Villa have also suffered badly timed injuries, most recently around the Tokyo Games. But D’Amato’s feel particularly painful given her potential for Paris and the fact that her twin sister Alice ended up with a silver all-around medal at Euros and is a strong candidate for Olympic medals as well. 

Some of these injuries feel preventable; others feel inevitable given the cruelties of time and the beating gymnasts’ bodies take in the sport. But an Olympic year always raises the stakes and emotions run higher. Wishing all of these athletes a speedy recovery. 

Other gym news

Now that we’re firmly in the post-postseason, College Gym News is stacked with great features. We’ve got:

And I really loved Katie Couldrey’s piece on coaching NCAA hopefuls toward their scholarship dreams.    

The Gymternet has the results of the European Championships, plus liveblogs of the team final, the event finals and the qualifications. (The qualifications decided the all-around champion, Manila Esposito of Italy. Her teammate Alice D’Amato won silver and Team Great Britain’s Alice Kinsella won bronze after Italy’s Angela Andreoli was two-per-countried off the podium.)

Georgia-Rose Brown will go to the Olympics on Team New Zealand

Mike Hunger was named assistant coach at Utah. 

Denver’s seniors, minus Jessica Hutchinson, will be back for their fifth years. Hutchinson is moving on to nursing school (with a third replacement ACL, she posted this week). 

If you want to watch Australian Championships, they’re this weekend. 

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Five at The IX: Chad’s assistant coach

Four gymnasts and two coaches for Chad wrap their arms tightly around each other in a huddle.
Chad’s gymnastics team huddles tightly at the African Championships in Marrakech, Morocco, in May 2024. (Photo credit: FIG)

Chad qualified a team to the African Championships this year for the first time after sending athletes to train in Spain. Its assistant coach did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit this week to answer fans’ questions. It’s an interesting look at the gymnasts’ journey.

Here are a few samples of the conversation. They have been lightly edited for clarity and formatting.

Q: Is this the only competition planned for Chad this year, or are you planning on participating in other competitions?

A: They participate for the club in national competitions. This year still remains the national Spanish championship [on] June 23, which will be retransmitted. Gimnastasnet will probably give all the info when the moment comes. Sadly international competitions are complicated because of money. The support comes from the foundation that has other projects like building a school that has gymnastics and [from] the donations of families and friends from Spain, but it’s nearly not enough.

Q: What was your leotard design process? Were the athletes involved at all? They are all stunning and have clear links back to Chad — I’m impressed with the leos as well as everything your program is doing!

A: It was a surprise from Sylvia [Garcia, one of the co-founders of Chad’s program] to them; she tried her best to capture the essence and roots of Chad and the girls were [ecstatic]. 

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Q: After this year, are there plans to expand the program to more athletes in Chad in the future?

A: We live day to day because money is tight, but everything we manage to collect, we take it to Chad and if in the future we could we would, absolutely.

Q: Do your gymnasts have another gymnast they look up to, even if they’re from Spain or another country?

A: They all love [Simone] Biles. One of them, Cecilia (she got fourth place by 0.1 in floor), is obsessed with gymnastics and follows closely all international gymnasts. 

Q: What is the town that the gymnasts come from like? What are the main issues that the town faces?

A: They are from N’djamena, Chad. The country suffers from a lack of basically everything, so there are very few opportunities. Also the country is facing political instability. A few weeks ago, the embassy sent us an email saying that they highly discourage traveling to Chad because of terrorist groups. Despite all of this, they absolutely LOVE Chad. It is their home with their friends and family. Money is always giving us headaches, but it’s so worth it.

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Written by Lela Moore