Jessica Savona – interview

Savona“, as she’s called, is one of the top Canadian gymnasts, having enjoyed success at Rotterdam Worlds, Pan-Ams Mexico, Wild Rose and Gymnix. She was injured last summer competing at the Tokyo Cup and has just returned to full training.

Savona (far right) silver medal team Pan-Ams 2010

GC: You’ve now had ACL surgery on both knees. How does this recovery compare with your first?

My first ACL was tough for me, but it was a different kind of surgery. Back in May 2008, I had surgery on my right knee, and they used my patella tendon to replace the ACL. That recovery was difficult because I had to let the screws / fractures heal into my bones, as well as let my patella tendon heal. It was 6 months before I was able to do anything!

August 2011 — after the injury at Tokyo Cup — I had surgery on my left knee. Instead of replacing the ACL using my own tissue, I got an allograft. Healing has been much faster and far less painful. It’s been only 5 months since surgery and I’m able to do SO MUCH already.

At 5 months with my other knee, I could barely run. Having just been cleared to train, I can already vault!

I do feel some pain, but it is nothing compared to the first knee. (Which is perfect now, by the way.) I expect to be back at 100% relatively soon.

GC: Mustafina had a similar injury a few months before you. Are there any other gymnasts you’ve known who’ve had to come back?

My coach, Kelly Manjak, tells me of the many gymnasts he’s known to come back 100%. Aliya will do it — and I will too.

GC: What’s the hardest thing about recovery?

Personally, the hardest thing is holding myself back. When I feel fresh and powerful, I, as do other gymnasts, feel the need and urge to do more and push myself beyond what I am supposed to do.

Another thing I found difficult this time, was finding things to do in my spare time. Training had many limitations, and my cardio exercises often depended on how strong my knee felt that day.

Also, I only have/had the heart for gymnastics, so I really had to force myself to exercise in other ways even though I hated doing so.

Are there any upsides?

The only good thing about having had 2 knee surgeries is that after the first one, I knew what to expect: what to do, what not to do and when I should do what. I’ve played it safe knowing that the main goal is the 2012 Olympics.

What is your “recovery” timeline for 2012? … When do you want to compete?

I really want to be able to compete at Elite Canada. If I can make that my first meet, even if I compete only some apparatus, that would mark the beginning of my 2012 year. I do not expect to be perfect my first few meets, I just want to put myself out there and get back to competing. Aliya’s first meet back was inspiring. I’d love to do the same thing.

I will be my only judge and no one can tell me otherwise. Give me time and I will make sure that I prepare myself for the most important meets, those that determine the Canadian Olympic team!

(We qualified in London! Thanks Team!)

GC: Are you interested in continuing to College gymnastics?

I’m focused on Olympics first, but I do aspire to compete in the NCAA! I have my sights set on a few Universities, and will apply for a scholarship to the school that’s best for me. And best for them.

GC … Why are you online so much? ?

I am ALWAYS online because (as many may know), I am a very social person. Sometimes I do not get the chance to see my friends or talk to them because I am busy with gym and school, so I take advantage of the World Wide Web to connect with the world beyond my reach! I have gymnastics friends all over the world.

Jessica was just cleared by medical for full training.

Click PLAY or watch day 3 of full training on YouTube.

Kyle Shewfelt sees Canada in the top 8 at Olympics. With a healthy Savona, I’d bump that up to top 6. This team could have everything: experience, leadership and good balance on all 4 apparatus.

Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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