From the age of 5 all Taiya wanted to be was an Olympic gymnast. She spent four nights a week and Saturday mornings all year long practicing and honing her skills in search of that perfect performance. This was more than just a sport to Taiya. It was truly her passion and a large part of her identity. It was also a social network for Andrea and I as we worked fundraising events and traveled with families on the same journey.
We always knew injuries were part of the sport and worked through our share of bumps and bruises along the way. However, things changed in 2014 when Taiya began having constant back pain. She hid it from us as best she could but we could see it starting to affect so much more of her life than just gymnastics. To seek answers we visited several different doctors and specialists none of whom could really tell us how to treat her. She was diagnosed with Pars fractures in her lower back and with no treatment options , we made her quit gymnastics after I saw her unable to bend over and tie her shoes after a practice.
This decision was crushing as a parent. We knew we were taking our daughter’s dream from her and that it was the only way to protect her from herself because she would have tried to fight through all the pain and tears just to continue. We had to look at the quality of life she would have as an adult and tried to convince her that she would find new dreams, goals, and teams to be part of.
Unfortunately over the next three years none of that was true. Taiya tried track, diving, and volleyball sometimes because she chose to and other times because we made her. None of the sports, the practices, the teams, fulfilled her or replaced what had been lost. Andrea and I were worried about our little princess because she seemed lost, unfocused and sad a lot of the time. We hoped and prayed that we would find something to relight her fire.
In 2017, Taiya hit a growth spurt and started getting taller as she was getting ready for her freshman year of high school. We had been told by one of the doctors that we should hope that Taiya would outgrow the injury as she got older but Andrea and I had given up on that idea.
Suddenly out of nowhere about two weeks before school, I got a call from Andrea telling me that Taiya wanted to try out for the high school gymnastics team. I was shocked to say the least and immediately emailed the coach to see what needed to be done since it’s a fall sport and was starting soon. After a brief conversation with the coach it was set, Taiya would attend a practice the next night and see how it went.
On the day of the practice Taiya began having doubts and wanted to back out of going. Andrea held her ground and dropped her off. We had no idea what to expect and were just excited that gymnastics could be an option again. When Taiya got home from practice, she was as excited as we had seen her in a long time. Despite all the time off, she still had retained many of the skills she worked so hard for. She knew almost all the girls on the team, and the coaches were amazingly supportive of her comeback attempt. Taiya was empowered by the coaches to work as hard as she could but to also tell them if her back was starting to bother her. They would alter her practices based on her injury and make sure to not overdue it and re-injure it.
It was amazing to see the excitement, passion, and promise return to our daughter almost as suddenly as we had lost it. We know the Olympics are no longer a possibility, but seeing that smile on her face, the bounce in her step, and the self confidence is better than a gold medal.