Being a freshman athlete is difficult. Dealing with the transition into college life and having to work around practice schedules is tough for any newcomer to handle.
As for freshman Arizona gymnast Shelby Edwards, she was injured shortly before this season started, which added yet another obstacle for her to face.
During a practice in mid-December, Edwards was running her routine on bars when she fell and dislocated her elbow.
Although Edwards was expected to be an all-around gymnast this season, she is keeping a positive attitude directed toward getting better and not letting this setback affect her.
“Shelby’s a unique gymnast where she is always happy and excited, so when there’s a challenge in her life, she just pushes through it,” said Arizona assistant coach Randi Acosta. “Even with the elbow going and what happened, she always practices with a smile on her face.”
Edwards has been diligent in her recovery process, going to rehab before and after practice every day. Her elbow is improving as she can now do chin-ups, push-ups and hand stands, but she is waiting to be cleared before she gets back into full swing with the Wildcats, who have placed first in only one meet this season.
Despite her injury, Edwards has been able to represent Arizona by competing on balance beam with a no-arm routine.
She was awarded Freshman/Newcomer of the week last Tuesday because of her success with this routine.
“I’ve never competed in a no-arm beam routine because of an injury before,” Edwards said. “I’ve gotten injured, like I’ve broken my wrist a few times and my hand and I’ve hurt my other elbow before, so growing up I was able to learn a lot of skills without arms and that helped me be able to put a routine together.”
Beam routines are nothing to take lightly, especially a no-arm routine.
Balancing and doing tricks and flips on a surface that is less than four inches wide is no walk in the park. Edwards takes the risk of competing on beam because she has been pushing through pain since childhood — it’s just part of being a gymnast.
But now, her main inspiration for recovery is her being a member of the Arizona team that she wants to compete for and represent.
“It’s hard to find not only a kid with that kind of personality and drive, but with the talent that she has,” Acosta said. “She’s able to do a complete beam routine with no arms, and she learned it two days before her meet. We just had that much confidence in her because of the type of kid she is. She would never ever back down or turn away; she thrives on that.”
Starting next week, she will attempt other tricks and events in practice to test out the elbow. If things go smoothly, she may be able to compete in other events in a few weeks.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself,” Edwards said. “I’ll focus on one thing at a time, but I think nationals is really important — that’s a team goal. Even if I can’t compete in all four events by the end of the season or whatever may happen, at least I can do some of them and contribute.”