SAN JOSE — The untimely injury to 2008 Olympian and 2009 World all-around champion Bridget Sloan with minutes to go before the Olympic Trials started will stand as one of the sadder moments of this meet.
It’s one thing to compete your best and walk off the floor knowing you did everything you possibly could. It’s another thing to be injured and have to walk away so close to the goal.
Since her World championship win in 2009, Sloan has spent most of the quadrennium returning from injuries. There was an ankle injury in 2010 that kept her from everything except bars at the Pacific Rim Championships. A pectoral injury later that year that restricted her to balance beam only at the 2010 U.S. Championships and required surgery after the 2010 Worlds.
A split toe that required 11 stitches the day before the team competition at the 2011 Pan American Games. And finally, minutes before the Olympic Trials began, a sprained elbow sustained as she fell from the sky performing a Church release (toe on piked Tkacthev), the skill she called her “favorite.”
Here is the way Sloan, understandably emotional, described what happened to reporters just before the competition began:
“It’s my favorite skill — the Church, I go right into a Pak. As soon as my toes came off the bar I knew I was a little far and I wasn’t going to make it. So I prepared myself for the landing, and I actually landed just how I was taught to: flat. As soon as I landed, my elbow hit and it kind of ricocheted off the mat, and as soon as that happened I knew something wasn’t right.
“And I tried to shake it off — I started grabbing it and pushing on it a little bit, giving myself a massage in between turns and I went on the bar again, did a second half, and when I came off the bar again, I knew that this wasn’t going to work. It started getting really bad — the pain, the throbbing, everything kind of started after that. I started warming up beam on the floor and every time my arm would move, I could feel something going into my hand. It was hard to accept, but at the same time I know that it was meant for me to be done.
“I know that again, everything happens for a reason,” Sloan added. “This was just my time,” she added, eyes welling up with tears. “I’m definitely a fighter. I did not like to go down without a fight. I have never been known for just giving up. I wanted to keep going, but [her eyes welled] safety is obviously a big thing. My body’s telling me one thing, my mind’s telling me another. But in the end, your body kind of wins.”
The diagnosis at this time is a sprain, though Sloan will undergo an MRI so doctors can make an exact determination. The injury will certainly not prevent her from matriculating at Florida in the fall, where she will be a freshman on the highly touted Gators gymnastics team.
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