Adjusting to Gymnastics Again: Just Keep Swimming, Fish

6:13 PM Arabian Punch Front 3 Comments

A little over one year after the Gym-Max Family interview, we had the chance to sit down with gymnast Felicia Hano, World Trampoline and Tumbling Medalist and former USA Gymnastics National Team Member, as she approaches her first competition after returning from injury.

Hello Fish! Many in the gymnastics community are wondering as to how you are doing and what the recovery process was like, so let’s begin!

How are you doing currently?
I’m doing pretty well. Training has been good. I’ve been getting my skills back and it’s been a hard process and a [healthy] process.

Are there certain skills that you’re really glad you’ve gotten back?
Definitely, tumbling! I missed tumbling the most. Getting that back was my main priority because I knew if I could get that back then I could get everything else back.

Can you go through step-by-step as to what happened during Podium Training at Classics?
Training started really well that day; I started with Yurchenko double-full, and those were pretty solid. Then I moved on to my second vault. My timing wasn’t right, the punch wasn’t right and my block wasn’t good but I still wanted to keep going. I was the last one on the rotation and I was really tired by the end. Howie said “No, don’t do anymore, we have another workout,” and I said “I need to do one more. I need to try one more and make it good,” and you know that last one got me. Landed short, I didn’t get enough block and propulsion off the table and I just came down a little too short. My ankle kind of crunched and rolled in and out and… it just wasn’t very good.

You had to be taken to the hospital immediately. What was the initial assessment because I heard it was knee but I also heard it was the ankle?
I saw the video too and at first it did look like I hurt my knee but it was my ankle. When I got to the hospital, they took some X-Rays and looked at it and their first conclusion was that it was a sprain. So they told me to keep it in a splint and check in with my doctors when I got home. So that’s what I did, I got home, went to the doctor… and they put me in a boot.

At the time you were getting physical therapy?
I got the MRI and they told me that I tore a bunch of ligaments in my ankles. They said I could try to fix it with physical therapy and see if that would help get the tightness back into my ligaments, but unfortunately, that didn’t work, so I ended up getting surgery [October 2015.] My doctors wanted to take a more conservative approach [with the physical therapy] because they didn’t want the wear and tear on my body especially since gymnastics is a very demanding sport. They didn’t want the surgery to mess with anything else and said to try physical therapy first and then to go from there if I needed surgery.

Is there something which has resonated with you throughout this recovery process? I know it’s hard to talk about but…
(Laughs) no, it’s okay! I’ve definitely learned a lot from this experience… a lot of perseverance and just never giving up, that has stuck with me throughout this whole recovery process. Just because if I would have given up, I wouldn’t be training now and wouldn’t be where I am today. I would say always working hard. Hard work will get you there.

Has it made you believe more in yourself?
It definitely has, putting a lot of trust in my abilities and myself and my talent because when I got surgery I was really upset and didn’t want to talk about it. It was a really hard time and I wasn’t going on social media, I just didn’t want to talk about it. It definitely pushed me and made me rediscover why I love gymnastics so much. When I got hurt and couldn’t do gymnastics, it made me realize that I need this sport and I love it so much.

If you were to give advice on how to stay resilient through a process like this what would you say?
Well my family, friends, coaches and teammates are definitely a big part of that and kept me motivated and try to keep me positive because they would see me having a rough day. For example, about two weeks ago, I was having a hard time getting my timing on bars and I was just so frustrated but my teammates helped me push through, “It’s okay Fish...just give it some time and you can do it, you’re good.” Without them I don’t think I would be where I am.

Is the NCAA factor a strong point too? Has Miss Val said anything in particular?
Definitely, that’s my biggest motivation right now, getting ready for college. I don’t want to let my team down. So I’ve just been working really hard in the gym and Miss Val has definitely helped with that. She has been so helpful and motivational for me; we talk almost on a daily basis keeping her informed and updated on everything. We set up a game plan of my recovery and my coming back. Miss Val has certain things she wants me to do and Jenny has certain things she wants me to do and they both help me get there to full recovery.

Can you share with us if it’s a week-by-week or skill-by-skill process?
Well, with Jenny it’s a week-by-week and with Miss Val it’s overall. Miss Val wants me to focus on getting my ankle really strong and rehabbing that. Not wanting [me] to come back too fast because I could injure it again but just working on flexibility and strength and my weaknesses. You know I started doing Hot Yoga, so that was her recommendation and I love it so much!

So how strong are your arms now?
Oh My Goodness they’re stronger than I thought they were going to be! When I had my boot on my cast, I was doing lots of ropes, lot of arm conditioning, lots of upper body conditioning. When I came back from bars I was surprised at how well it went!

What skills can you currently do?
I can do almost all my skills again which is really exciting, just a few skills like the higher level skills, I’m not quite there yet, but all my level 10 skills I have back. Like double twist on vault, I’m not there yet. I tried double layouts the other day onto a resi-mat….and I made it and I was like WOOH!

What skills were you planning on doing at Classics?
I was planning a few upgrades and I was really excited and was disappointed I didn’t get to show everybody.
Bars: I wasn’t planning on competing bars.
Vault: I was planning on debuting my second vault but I mean that didn’t work out too well. It was supposed to be Tsuk full but I learned it as a Kasamatsu, like what the boys do in a way, it’s just a different technique.
Floor: On floor I was going to do whip double layout. That was one of the biggest upgrades I had, (smiles) and then if it was good I would connect it to a split jump. I was planning on competing the Biles at Championships.
Beam: Arabian was in the works and front tuck half. It just wasn’t quite ready for competition season yet. (On whether we will see it in the future?) Hopefully!

Which is your favorite skill and which has taken you the longest to learn?
I think double layout is my favorite skill because it just feels like you’re flying once you get it good and you know in the air that it’s good and you’re just like ahh this is so cool!
Bars: Level 10 was fine for me, but elite was definitely the hardest for me... It’s a lot of skills and a lot of connections so putting the routine together that was the hardest for me.
Longest: The Biles, it probably took me a day to learn it but here’s the thing, it’s the timing. It’s so tedious. You have to work on it and work on it just to get the punch right, because you think double layout, and the Biles, they look pretty similar, except the Biles has a half turn. But no, it’s so much more than that. The punch is a little bit different; you rotate a little bit different and plus the timing of the half-twist is really crucial and you want to make it a safe landing because it’s really easy to hurt your knee on that skill. So that has probably taken me the longest to perfect.

When you have a skill in mind, how much of it is Jenny and Howie pushing you and how much is it you wanting to do it?
I’ll bring up an idea and if they say “Oh yeah, you could do that,” then they’ll let me learn it and try it but if they don’t think that it fits me then they’ll say “Uh, maybe we should take a step back.” But, they’re definitely really open-minded when it comes to learning new skills and they know how my body works and what skills are good for me and which skills I should stay away from. The second vault they felt that I could do really well. During podium training, they didn’t push me at all, they said, “okay, maybe you should be done.”

It seems like you have a really good relationship with them in terms of communication of them
Yeah, we’re always really open with each other and we can always talk about it.

There is an upcoming meet for you, Chris Waller’s Heart of a Champion. Tell us a little bit more.
I can’t wait to compete because [many] have not seen me compete since 2014. I’m really excited to compete because I haven’t competed in California in a really long time, at a local meet, so my friends and family can come watch me compete.

What skills and events will you competing? Are you going to be doing elite skills or level 10 skills?
Mixture of both. Mostly just Level 10 skills because I don’t want to throw anything too difficult. For sure, Bars and Beam; vault maybe, we’ll see. (on not competing floor) I just feel like my ankle wasn’t ready for that yet, the hard landings, so I just didn’t want to push it. I was hoping it could be all four, but it’s just not going to be [at] this meet.

Thank you for being a great sport and sharing your recovery process with us, Fish. We had a great time catching up with you!

Special thanks to KRAppreciation for the images.


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