Gymnastics Notebook: Rival loses strongest gymnast for season

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

The fall of a national champion

Georgia’s Courtney Kupets, the two-time defending NCAA all-around national champion, tore her right Achilles’ tendon on Saturday. Kupets was attempting a double Arabian on the first pass of her floor routine against Arkansas when the injury occurred. She underwent successful surgery Monday, the Georgia medical staff reported.

Kupets finished ahead of Utah’s Ashley Postell in the all-around competition in the past two NCAA championships. Losing Kupets for the season should hurt Georgia’s run at a fourth consecutive national championship, but Utah doesn’t expect too much of a change.

“Georgia is still a strong team and will be the favorite to win nationals,” Utah head coach Greg Marsden said. Kupets posted scores for two events in the meet against Arkansas, and the Gym Dogs still achieved a season-high score.

Georgia knows how to rebound after losing key pieces late in the season. The Gym Dogs lost Ashley Kupets — Courtney’s older sister — and Kelsey Ericksen after both suffered injuries prior to nationals last year. Ashley Kupets tore her Achilles’ at regionals, and Ericksen tore her ACL training for the championships.

The team responded by winning its third straight national title without their star seniors.

“These types of things (the Georgia coaching staff) use as a rallying point for their team,” Marsden said.

Marsden is more concerned about the affect Kupets’ injury has on collegiate gymnastics as a whole rather than the impact on the national championship.

“Kupets helped give even greater respect to college gymnastics,” Marsden said. “It’s a loss for college gymnastics.”

Kupets tore her left Achilles’ in 2003 training at the World Championships. She took nearly a year to recover, but the junior could be back in time for her senior season.

Nothing like a little R and R

The Red Rocks used their week off of competition to become healthier, but the outcome came with mixed results. Stephanie Neff’s Achilles’ injury is healing nicely, and she completed full bar routines with dismounts last week. She also practiced all of her tumbling maneuvers on a soft surface.

Kyndal Robarts’ knee is feeling much better. Marsden said she should be ready to do every event on Friday with possible exception being floor. Nina Kim is expected to be back to full strength after spraining her foot. However, she and Daria Bijak spent last week battling sickness.

“That’s been frustrating, and I’m not sure what they’ll be able to do by the end of the week,” Marsden said.

Bijak still doesn’t feel well, but she said Monday that her fever had resided.

Waiting in the wings

For the most part this season, the U gymnastics team has been able to fend off serious injury. When bumps and bruises do arise, senior Katie Kivisto is ready to step in where needed.

Twice this season, Kivisto has filled a hole in Utah’s rotation at the last moment.

“I’ve learned to be ready no matter what,” Kivisto said.

Against Washington on Feb. 16, Kim was injured during warmups. Marsden turned to Kivisto and asked her to fill in on uneven bars. She swung her way to a 9.80.

The day before Utah’s meet against UCLA on Feb. 24, Kyndal Robarts informed her coaches that her knee was sore from the meet the day before. On Sunday, it was determined she could not compete, and Kivisto stepped in again on short notice to fill out the floor exercise lineup. She led the team off with a 9.775.

Kivisto said that she doesn’t get rattled by last-minute decisions and is happy to have the opportunity to compete.

“I feel like I’m confident, and Greg (Marsden) is confident in what I can do,” she said.

[email protected]

Ty Cobb

Courtney Kupets, the two time all-around national champion from Georgia, tore her ACL Saturday and will miss the rest of the season.