Walker fighting through injuries

Mark Heise

Minnesota junior Angela Walker is a prime example of determination in action.

The successful gymnast has sailed through her routines this season and is in line to be the next all-arounder for the Gophers this year.

“She’s a very pragmatic and focused person,” coach Jim Stephenson said. “She loves gymnastics and works at a high speed. For barely a 100-pound kid, she’s a real workhorse.”

Walker might put in a lot of work, but this season could arguably be the easiest in what has been a tumultuous career.

Coming in as a freshman, Walker was expected to fill the role as an all-arounder right away.

But in the first event of her third meet of the season, she landed in pain when dismounting the balance beam.

“When it happened, I thought maybe I only tweaked it or pulled something,” she said. “But once I learned what it was, it seemed like everything was just stripped away.”

Walker had torn her ACL and both meniscuses in her right knee, signaling an immediate end to her season.

As if that wasn’t enough, Walker also lost eligibility for the year because she had competed in three meets – one more than the NCAA allows for a medical redshirt.

Stephenson mentioned the discouragement, but found a way to make something of the season for Walker anyway.

“For about two days, everyone just felt lousy, but eventually we sat down and identified a couple of things we could work on that had nothing to do with her leg,” he said. “And there were some good things that came out of it, like the one-arm handstand on balance beam. Nobody else does that.”

Walker pushed through the injury, and it appeared as if she was fully healed and ready to go for her sophomore season.

But things still weren’t quite right. Walker still felt pain in her knee. She competed on the balance beam and uneven bars before returning to the doctor to learn that her meniscus had once again torn.

“Things didn’t feel right, and the tear caused me to make a decision,” Walker said. “Ending the season early again was something I wasn’t going to do again, so I decided to wait until the end of the season. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt worse.”

With two major injuries over the course of two years, it would have been easy to give up, but Walker continued to fight back and continued rehab. And the way things are going for Walker so far this season, it seems like a good decision.

“Angela has been through a lot as far as injuries go,” teammate Amanda Miles said. “But she’s handled things very well, and it’s been impressive to see her make a comeback after such a big injury.”

Walker has been one of the team’s most consistent performers over the last three weeks. She even participated in the floor exercise for the first time since her freshman season.

But it’s not the determination factor Walker has focused on, it’s the fact that things are finally getting back to normal.

“I wasn’t going to give up, and now I’m really happy with where I’ve gotten,” she said. “I’m finally working my way back in, and that’s a really good feeling.”