Katelyn Bartels perseveres to continue competitive gymnastics

Junior Katelyn Bartels faced more than just COVID-19 issues during her competitive gymnastics season last year. Before the pandemic, she was also injured to the point of not being able to compete.

“I was doing one of the easiest skills in my routine [on the bars],” Katelyn said. “I was practicing with the lower-level group because I had to make up a practice. Normally, [the other gymnasts] will pull the mat out under each other. I fell backward and no one pulled the mat out underneath me. I landed funny and twisted my ankle. I had already hurt that ankle, so I was in a really supportive ankle brace. The doctor said if I wasn’t in that, I probably would’ve broken my ankle into two pieces.”

With a boot on her foot, Katelyn was unable to compete for her entire season, but this setback was unsuccessful in pushing Katelyn away from gymnastics.

Katelyn has been competing on a gymnastics team in Grand Rapids for the last four years, five if not for her injury. By competing on a team, Katelyn has become further interested in continuing gymnastics. 

It’s something to do in my spare time, and it keeps me active.”

— Katelyn Bartels

“I have been competing with the same girls for the last three years,” said Katelyn. “I love all of them.”

Strong bonds have created an environment for Katelyn to thrive in. But while these friendships may be one of the reasons Katelyn chooses to continue on her path of gymnastics, they are not the only reason.

“I just find [gymnastics] fun,” Katelyn said. “It’s something to do in my spare time and it keeps me active.”

As with most things, COVID-19 has made competitions difficult.

All competitions have COVID-19 precautions that make them look much different from what a competition would typically look like. One of these precautions has weighed heavily on Katelyn.

“With COVID-19, we have to wear a mask when we compete,” Katelyn said. “Sometimes I will be doing my routine and my mask will [cover my eyes]. If I touch it then I get a point deduction, so I just have to keep going with my mask in my face.”

A mask in her line of vision makes it difficult to keep on with her routine, but Katelyn persists. Her perseverance is prevalent in all of her competitions, which leads to her excelling.

“I do all four events [which are vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, and balance beam],” Katelyn said. “Bars is definitely my best event. I usually place first on bars.”

A feeling of accomplishment is also part of the reason Katelyn continues to compete. She takes pride in the skills she has learned and mastered.

“I am working on twisting [for floor routines], giants on bars,” Katelyn said. “I am also working on back handsprings on beams.”

A giant is a gymnastic skill where the gymnast rotates three-hundred-sixty degrees around the bar while in a fully extended position. Since bars are Katelyn’s best event, advancing at this skill will help her achieve higher scoring and perform better.

Her accomplishments, skills, and sense of pride have taught her life lessons. Gymnastics is more than just a sport to Katelyn; it is a way to learn skills that apply to her everyday life.

“[Some lessons I’ve learned through gymnastics are] definitely perseverance,” Katelyn said. “Getting hurt really sucks and I had to work through it. Patience [is another].”