Weekly All School Bulletin
How Hitting the Ground (and Leaving the Ground) Helped this Chase Kid 'Stick' his Athletic Passion
When most athletes get the wind knocked out of them, they tend to stay down or falter, but that wasn't the case for gymnast Hee Mang C. '23. Significantly injured while competing about 18-months ago, Hee Mang could have easily been discouraged, but instead, this Chase kid powered through his frustrations, learned patience, and eventually surprised even himself, finishing first-place in three events during the 2018 New Year's Gymnastic Invitational at the Suffield Gymnastics Academy.
"In gymnastics, there's a word called 'pung,' which means you slipped off of the bar," explained Hee Mang, about the incident that led to his recent long-term injury. "It usually happens on, like, rings and high bar and basically it is when you slip off and you kind of, like, fly and hit the ground. So what happened was I pung off and I hit my chin on my sternum really hard so it injured [my ribs and chest] and from that impact it hurt to breathe."
Frustrating right? Of course, and Hee Mang admits that it took a while for him to realize he'd need to embrace patience and give his body the time it needed to properly heal.
"At the beginning, I thought I was fine," he explained. "And then, early in sixth grade I reinjured [the same area] and that one really hurt to breathe and that one was the one that made me stay out for a longer time."
No stranger to the sport, Hee Mang started practicing gymnastics as part of a 'mommy and me' class while still a toddler. But learning from his failure and how to cope with impatience - those are skills that he was still navigating in the gym. Hee Mang eventually discovered techniques to remain positive and involved with the sport, while also accepting support from his teammates, family, and friends.
"I was kind of angry," admitted Hee Mang. "I hated just sitting down and being lazy instead of being in a gym working out and working on new skills." So what was this Chase kid's solution? "I helped out at gymnastics competitions... and I did come in [to the gym] every once in a while just to hang out."
It also helped that his teammates and family formed a close-knit community of support around him, especially as he approached his first competition in over a year. Hee Mang explained, "probably the hardest part [of getting back to competition] was, like, me getting nervous because it was my first meet in a long time, but everything else was pretty easy because I just had to remember that I've done all of these routines before. I just had to keep doing what I had to do. And with the support of my other teammates, it was also easier because they were, like, cheering me on and, like, making me feel more comfortable."
Remembering past advice also proved helpful to Hee Mang. He recalled one time in the fourth grade when he felt frustrated with the sport and wanted to quit. "My parents always told me to just keep going. You might overcome it," stated Hee Mang. "And I eventually did and I was really glad that I didn't [quit]."
Channeling all of the positive energy around him, Hee Mang went into the New Year's competition facing his fears of continued injury and treating the event as just another practice, which turned out to take a significant amount of pressure off of him. He explained that competing is "just a more meaningful practice," and once you've practiced your skills, you perform them during a meet. You get to show off; and show off he did during the mid-January invitational.
"I was very shocked because I thought I wasn't going to place," laughed Hee Mang, who ended up placing first on pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars. "I was very surprised when I placed first on events because I thought if I did [place] I was only going to get second or third."
By the end of the meet, Hee Mang earned second place on rings, and third on high bar in addition to his first-place successes and he ended up in fifth place standing overall out of over 50 competitors. So what exactly did Hee Mang take away from the whole experience? The ability to overcome his frustrations and knowing that doing so leads to a more positive headspace.
"Yeah, every once in a while I get super frustrated but I overcome that frustration and start to love [the sport] again... I'm feeling a lot stronger [now]."
- Mrs. Oleksiw
Digital and Social Media Specialist