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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Last updated: 5:47am

Gymcat overcomes long odds



After doctors told her to retire due to injury during her junior year of high school, junior Shay Fox thought she would never be able to return to the sport she loved. Suffering a back injury, she was required to wear a back brace because of fractures in both parts of her lower back.

Fast-forward to her freshman year at the UA, Fox spoke with gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden about a manager position with the Gymcats. Although there was no place for her that year, he called upon her the following year and asked if she still wanted to be a manager.

“I originally decided to become a manager because I still loved gymnastics,” Fox said. “At that point, I was physically unable to do the sport, but mentally I was still in the sport, following it and wanting to be involved. From there, I realized I wanted to come back.”

In the 2012-2013 season, Fox started having thoughts of wanting to return to as a gymnast. She began going to open gyms and working out with the help of assistant coach John Court.

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By Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat
Junior all-around Shay Fox has overcome a back injury to become a key member of the Wildcats. Her coach also calls her one of the hardest workers on the team.

“At the end of last year, she came to me and said that she could still do it,” Ryden said. “Of course, I had my doubts: ‘After that long [of a] time and the doctors are not fools; they told you to retire for a reason.’ We let her play over the summer, and she definitely showed some real talent. I gave her a spot on the roster and told her, ‘It is up to you now to prove if I was smart or stupid.’”

The choice was only a smart one for Ryden. Throughout this season, Fox has been called upon a number of times, even in the Pac-12 Tournament. Her career numbers are 9.875 on the balance beam and 9.875 on floor.

“Especially with a sport like gymnastics, it is not really a sport where you can take time off and come back and be exactly how you were before,” sophomore Shelby Edwards said. “She works hard every single day, and she never takes it for granted. I really look up to her in that respect because it is very hard to do that in gymnastics.”

By having the experience of being on the sidelines, Fox was able do work in the background and get a behind-the-scenes approach to the sport.

“It meant the world to me because that is all I have ever wanted to do,” Fox said. “Ever since I was 11, all I wanted to do was go to college and do college gymnastics. For him to even think about giving me a chance is an honor.”

After this season, Fox will now have two years of eligibility left to help the Gymcats. Yet, before that starts, she must compete next week in the Baton Rouge Regional.

“I have been very impressed with her natural ability,” Ryden said. “She is 5-foot-8, but … she does her gymnastics so properly and so effortlessly, you never think of her [height], because a lot of times tall athletes struggle in our sport.”

—Follow Matt Wall @mwall20


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