The gymnast: An improper goodbye

Video posted March 19, 2012 in Sports by Catie Driza


For some, club sports at Penn State are a way to stay in shape, make new friends and try new sports. For others, however, club sports are a way of preserving the past and working toward goals that were set years before.

For Rachel Zawodzinski, Club Gymnastics is the latter, and a sport to which she never said the proper goodbye. For 15 years, Zawodzinski has taken part in competitive gymnastics, four of them being at Penn State.

This year, Zawodzinski was on track to compete at Nationals, but when she hyper-extended her knee the week before her qualifying meet, Zawodzinski was left debilitated and torn about whether she should compete. 

Knowing that her days doing gymnastics were numbered, Zawodzinski decided to decrease the number of events she was going to compete in and mustered through the pain.

“I really wanted to compete, but I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t making my injury worse at the same time,” Rachel said after the meet.  “It was one of those moments as an athlete where you have to ultimately decide what is more important to you. Knowing that it was my second to last meet, I was willing to risk my injury to have the opportunity to compete one more time.”

Zawodzinski's knee continued to hurt for weeks after the meet, which was uncharacteristic of a hyper-extended knee.  Concerned that her knee would prevent her from competing in her last meet, she decided to visit her doctor.

At the doctor’s office, an MRI revealed that the knee she thought had been hyper-extended had actually been fractured.  The doctor told Zawodzinski that she had competed in her last meet and that she would have to be on crutches for the following six weeks. 

“I was absolutely devastated,” Zawodzinski revealed. “Gymnastics has been such a big part of my life ever since I was in elementary school, and I never got the closure that I felt like I deserved."

Looking back on her qualifying meet, Zawodzinski was happy that she decided to compete through her injury since she was unknowingly competing for the last time.

"If there is one thing I have learned from my gymnastics career," Zawodzinski said, "it is that you should never take your body for granted.”