Gymnast takes on a new role


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Emma Willis, a standout all-around gymnast for the Hawkeyes, announced her decision to quit gymnastics last week.

The junior announced her decision via Twitter on Jan. 16: “Due to a recurring problem with my knees, it has been suggested that I stop gymnastics. It was a choice I had to make for my future.”

Before becoming a Hawkeye, the Sarnia, Ontario, Canada native amounted to great success. She was a member of the Canadian national team and the world team and even contemplated taking two years off after high school to train for a spot in the Olympics.

However, following an injury-plagued career while competing internationally, Willis was ready for a change.

“Gymnastics just wasn’t fun anymore, and competing for Iowa was a new opportunity,” Willis said.

She had to make the adjustment of competing internationally to compete collegiately. She had to leave her national experience behind and adapt to an entirely new environment. Willis said the college level is much more intense and there is a greater team concept.

After a very successful gymnastics career in Canada, Willis was a promising candidate for the Hawkeyes.

As an all-around gymnast, Willis competed in all four events — beam, bars, floor, and vault — and was the team’s leading scorer in the vault last year. She was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in 2012.

Throughout her gymnastics career, Willis has undergone eight surgeries — two on her elbow, two on her left knee, and four on her right knee — but ultimately, a meniscus transplant in her right knee ended her career before the beginning of this season.

“There’s no way you can prepare for anything like that,” said Willis, a former Daily Iowan employee. “I started gymnastics when I was 2, and when they tell you can’t do it anymore it’s like a piece of your identity is lost.”

Willis says she discussed retiring with her coach and trainer.

“You’re talking about the rest of your life, and it’s not worth it,” head coach Larissa Libby said. “Unfortunately, it’s my job to step in and bring the reality of the situation out.”

Despite all the adversity, Willis contributes in a different way by lending her expertise as a competitor to the younger women on the team.

“[Willis] has had a huge impact,” said Angel Metcalf, an all-around gymnast who has helped fill Willis’ spot. “She helps every single day in practice and competition and gives us that extra boost of confidence. We love having her here.”

While Willis admits it will be hard to watch her teammates compete without her this season, she seems to have found a hidden blessing behind her situation.

“I may have lost the gymnast, but I didn’t lose the gymnastics,” she said. “I’ve been able to transition into a different role without losing my passion.”

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.