Gymnast Triumphs Internationally After Surgery Recovery


Photo Courtesy of Kaylee Larson

Recently, gymnast Kaylee Larson (11) competed in an international tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan. She returned to the United States victorious, placing 11th internationally for her age group and gender division.

Nikki Iyer , Staff Writer

She started as an alternate for the team, but climbed her way to 11th place internationally. Through a broken leg and warrior-type recovery, the sky’s the limit for junior Kaylee Larson’s gymnastics career.

Larson started gymnastics at age 4 as a hobby. Now, at age 17, she practices 24 hours a week, and has been nationally and internationally recognized for her efforts.

She recently traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan in the Middle East to compete in the World Age Group Competitions (WAGS). 32 countries competed at the tournament, and more than 30 females competed in her age division 17-21.

However, if you asked Larson four years ago if she would ever expect this to happen, she likely would have said no. In 2017, she landed incorrectly doing gymnastics, and got a spiral fracture in her tibia and fibula. The injury required surgery, a recovery time of three months, and two years to regain her lost skills. When she was able to finally return to the gym floor, every little mistake jeopardized her safety.

“Every single time I would land wrong, I would be set back a few days. My foot was very angry with me, very often,” said Larson.

To remain sedentary for months, after being used to a rigorous training schedule for years, was understandably difficult; almost as difficult as returning to the very sport that broke her.

“It was definitely a mind game where I was trying to figure out how to battle my mental stuff because I hurt myself doing gymnastics, and that’s always challenging to try and put yourself back into,” said Larson.

Regardless of past injuries, Larson clearly made a strong, healthy recovery, exceeding any prior expectations that has allowed her to rank internationally. However, that doesn’t exempt any other obstacles. 

There’s always that part of me that really wants to win, but the fact that I was going into it trying to set my expectations low and just have fun and do my personal best, 11th was amazing”

— Larson

To qualify for the WAGS competition, Larson had to meet high standards at three different qualifying events. At the 2020 event, she came down with a bad case of food poisoning, and fell on her landing. Nonetheless, her performance was impressive enough to qualify her for internationals.

When she competed in Baku, her family and friends at home fought the 12 hour time difference and stayed up until 1 a.m. to virtually watch her performance.

“It was very cool to see all their messages of supporting me from halfway across the world,” said Larson. “They’ve definitely carried me through tough times when it comes to injuries or mental blocks or anything that I’m struggling with whether it’s school or life, they’ve just helped me as a person get there, before they actually got me there.”

To rank internationally is a rare accomplishment for any athlete. Larson was one of only 32 selected for her age group at the event, and managed to score in the top one-third of the athletes.

“There’s always that part of me that really wants to win, but the fact that I was going into it trying to set my expectations low and just have fun and do my personal best, 11th was amazing,” said Larson. “I’ve trained for so many years, it was a surreal moment where I was realizing that I was 11th, and that my work was going towards something,” said Larson.