When Colleen and Chip Tessen couldn’t have children of their own, they turned to adoption. After 15 months, the Tessens traveled to China and brought their baby girl home. Now, sophomore Kim Tessen competes on the University of Utah gymnastics team.
“It was an amazing journey from start to finish,” Colleen said. “Mainly we were excited, happy and hopeful. Of course, sometimes we were very frustrated with how complicated the process was.”
Following months of paperwork, background checks and government visits, the Chinese government paired the Tessens up with Kim. Colleen and Chip waited seven weeks before they were set to travel to China.
“It was agonizing at times as we waited to get our match and even more difficult when we finally saw her photo and knew it would be weeks before we would finally be able to travel to China to see her in person,” Colleen said. “But it was so very much worth the wait.”
Meeting Kim, the family knew they were meant to be. As an energetic child, Kim always remembers flipping around the house.
“I would swing on the towel racks in the bathroom and I broke one, one time,” Kim said.
It seemed only natural for Kim to give tumbling a shot. Kim was winning, or at least she thought she was, after starting when she was 7 years old.
“Just a few months after she started training, her coaches put her in a level 4 competition,” Colleen said. “She didn’t get a very high score, but she didn’t know that. All of the gymnasts received participation medals and she was so excited to get that medal. I guess she associated receiving a medal with the Olympics because right after the meet she said, ‘Mom, was that the Olympics?’ I am quite sure she thought she had just won an Olympic competition.”
Coming far since then, Kim has been a 2016 Region 1 all-around champion (Senior E), a fifth all-around at 2016 Nastia Liukin Cup, first on bars, second all-around and fifth on vault at the 2016 Junior Olympic National Championships (Senior E division) and a 2016 Junior Olympic National Team member.
“When we first put her in gymnastics it was just for fun, and we didn’t expect it to go beyond that,” Colleen said. “But as she advanced further and further in club gymnastics the only thing that held her back was the injuries she received. I know I am her mom when I say this, but she is one very incredible girl.”
Even with ankle and shoulder injuries this past season, Kim is always looking for ways to train her body.
“I was working … one arm tumbling and just messing with skills that I knew my body could handle and that I was allowed to do just so I could stay complete,” Kim said. “It’s sometimes hard for me to just sit back, watch and do nothing. I try to find every little thing that I can do.”
Between juggling gymnastics, school and everyday life Kim is constantly learning.
“[Gymnastics] has taught me so many life lessons,” Kim said. “I’ve learned discipline, self-confidence, hard work ethic and I definitely can tell that it has carried over into other aspects of my life. This sport has taken me through a lot. I’ve been through a lot of injuries, I’ve been through a lot of kind of heartache with that. It has taught me to be patient and just how strong I can really be.”
Kim may be a strong person, but she has never seen herself as someone others should look up to.
“I think to myself, ‘Oh, well I have problems with this and I struggle with that,’ but everyone does,” Kim said. “I think that’s the beauty of all of this. We are all just people trying to get through life.”
At the core of Kim’s outlook on life is to be understanding and kind.
“You never know what people are going through,” Kim said. “We’re living the same day right now, but everyone is going to experience it in a different way and there are so many people out there with so many of their own little problems. Sometimes if I’m having a hard time or I am stressing out, I just like to take a step back and breathe.”
Kim believes it’s important to not just being understanding of others.
“There’s definitely something out there that’s bigger than all of this and there are people out there with similar problems or even bigger problems. It’s really important to be understanding toward everyone and toward ourselves as well.”