Senior Women's Gymnast Kate Stopper - Bouncing Back
March 22, 2005
Senior Kate Stopper - Bouncing Back
Senior co-captain Kate Stopper is someone who never gives up on the sport she loves, no matter how difficult the challenge. After an injury that kept her out most of her freshman season, Stopper came back to compete in every meet of the season for the past two years.
Instead of the injury keeping her down, it has only strengthened who she is as an athlete.
In October of her freshman year, Stopper was doing a beam dismount when she tore the ligament in her left foot that keeps the big toe in place.
"They didn't recognize what had happened until December and that is when I had surgery. It took a longer time to recover because my foot had already started to compensate for the torn ligament and there was a lot of scar tissue," said Stopper.
Before Stopper came to Penn State she said that she wore beam shoes, but once she came here there was a team rule that they were not to wear beam shoes, and Stopper didn't really like to wear them anyway so she forewent wearing the shoes.
"Beam shoes are a form of ballet slippers," explained Stopper, "They have a strap that goes around your ankle and under your foot and has grips on the bottom and don't slide. They are very flexible so you can still point your toes and get a good range of motion.
"I have always had a problem with my toes, especially with dismounts, and when I took off, my weight was shifted to one side and my big toe was the only toe on the beam and that is what pulled apart the ligament," said Stopper about how the accident happened. "Now I am back to wearing beam shoes, and by wearing them it keeps all of my toes together, although I am the only girl that wears them."
After the accident it took about three months for Stopper to be fully recovered. In order to complete her therapy Stopper had to work with the trainer in order to keep her leg muscles built up.
"I had to do exercises with my big toe. I would have to lift my big toe up with resistance and stuff like that. Everyone thought it was really funny," said Stopper of her therapy. She was also on crutches for a month before she was even able to put weight on her foot. After that she had to learn to walk correctly to make sure that she would be able to walk through her foot, and not on the outside since that could later cause ankle problems.
Stopper was not even supposed to be competing her freshman year, she was supposed to redshirt, so her rehab was not pushed through quickly and Stopper said she didn't take her training as seriously because she thought she would have all summer to get ready for the next season's competition. It turned out that due to team injuries that Stopper would be needed to compete in the Big Ten competition and the regional competition.
"I wasn't expecting to compete (at Big Tens) but they told me to bring my grips anyway, that I could practice at the meet and all of a sudden I had a leotard packed in my bag, and I was competing. I competed on the bars and I don't even do bars anymore, and it wasn't my best event, but I hit my routine and won a 9.40," said Stopper of her first collegiate gymnastics competition.
During her junior season, the ligament in Stopper's right foot also ripped. "I was doing a pivot turn on floor while doing a dance move. It was after practice and the coaches weren't even there. I guess I just have very weak ligaments in my feet," said Stopper.
Stopper said that right after the ligament tore she knew what happened and so did the trainers and her doctors. She had surgery about a week after the ligament tore, but this one was much easier since the injury had just happened and there was no scar tissue to deal with.
One of Stopper's goals for the team is that she wants them to win the Big Ten. "I think as a team we have the potential and talent to do it. I think it would be a great way to finish my years here, as well as a confidence booster for the rest of the girls on the team because they are all really, really good," she said.
Stopper hopes to end her last season at Penn State on a high note. "I just want to know that I did the best that I could."
This is Stoppers last season of eligibility and she will be graduating in December. She plans to go on to graduate school in order to pursue a degree in secondary education counseling in order to be a guidance counselor.