Maddie, thank you for joining us. First, why don't you tell us a little bit about you as a UIC gymnast?
Being a UIC gymnast has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. It came with a lot of sacrifices in order to reach common goals and constantly acting as ladies of character to build a positive reputation for our program and sport on the national and international levels. UIC encompasses diversity and the gymnastics team is no exception with my former and current teammates being from places as far as Canada, Germany, and South Africa. UIC gymnastics has privileged me with the opportunity to build connections with these amazing people, simply joined together by the love of gymnastics.
This opportunity you are speaking of, how has it impacted you and your life?
Competing as a UIC gymnast helped me build confidence and solidify my identity. I feel so blessed to have coaches that allow me to capitalize on my strengths and that always motivate me with kindness and understanding, as Mary and Peter have. Belonging to this gymnastics team has refined my work ethic and allowed me to be the strongest and healthiest version of myself, and for that, I am so grateful.
Being a student-athlete obviously comes with a lot of ups and downs. Can you pinpoint a moment you will likely remember for the rest of your life?
My most memorable moment isn't about a victory, but something that means so much more. Every year, the men's and women's programs host a meet in honor of Charlie, a boy with Down Syndrome, who worked out in our gym and truly represented how hard work can beat adversity with a positive attitude. During my freshmen year, I was able to partake in this meet for the first time and our team huddle with the Manley family and the memories of Charlie mentioned in those team huddles reinforced the idea that the lessons we learn from this sport are what we will remember forever.
Talk a little bit about your thoughts and feelings in regards to this upcoming season possibly being your last one.
The thought of this season being my last still does not resonate with me. I felt blindsided when I heard the news from the athletic director, as cutting a program that is clearly on the rise simply does not make sense to me. Eliminating the gymnastics team may seem like an "easy decision", but it brings so many complications for the athletes they promised to serve. We centered a fundamental part of our academic journey on gymnastics and it seems wrong to deny gymnasts the opportunity to compete and bring home championships to the university. Families run deeper than "finances" and the reasons provided for cutting the program leave me disappointed. Regardless, we as a team have a lot of fight left in us and we are determined to have this decision reversed.
It seems like the whole gymnastics community is coming together to fight for the decision to be reversed. Can you elaborate a little bit on this movement?
UIC is the final gymnastics program in Chicago and the camp we host over the summer captivates so many young gymnasts and demonstrates a continued interest for the sport. Our whole conference is united and we appreciate their vocalized support for our program. Just last conference meet, we wore t-shirts to stand up against the Larry Nassar controversy and cutting our program will deny us the opportunity to build a more positive reputation for our sport. If the trend of eliminating gymnastics teams around the nation continues, then I believe that athletics will lose diversity that Olympic sports like gymnastics provide. Gymnastics brought all of us girls together but now, some girls may transfer to continue practicing the sport they dedicated a large portion of their lives to. In this case, the Chicago community will suffer a loss in terms of our combined contributions to community service and community outreach as well.
FanWord is embarking on a series of stories from UIC’s current team members and other folks whose lives have been positively, and irrevocably, impacted by UIC Gymnastics. As you read what UIC Gymnastics has accomplished and the lives it has touched, I hope you will understand the need for these programs to continue into the future.
For more stories on this series, click here.