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Monday, February 26, 2024

Five years ago, Courtney Gladys quit gymnastics.

Now, she is one of the top competitors on the UF gymnastics team.

Gladys hurt her elbow at age 12, and eventually the injury forced her to retire from the sport when she was just 14.

While in high school, she participated in tennis and track, but something always pulled her back to her first love.

"I was like, 'Well, I really do miss the sport, but it has been almost three years since I've been out,'" Gladys said. "But something was telling me to go back to it, like just in the back of my mind. It's always been my passion."

A few months into her comeback, she reinjured her elbow and had a tough decision to make.

"I went to the doctor, and the choice was to either lay off of it for three months or get arthroscopic surgery on it," Gladys said. "I didn't have three months, so I was like, 'Okay, I came back to this sport and I'm going to do everything in my power to get back, and if it doesn't work, then it's not meant to be.'"

Once again, Gladys was forced to start over, except this time she was attempting to impress UF coach Rhonda Faehn enough to be allowed to walk on the Gators gymnastics team.

"She came and was basically in a tryout situation for a few weeks to see if her body could get back in the groove of things and start being able to do gymnastics again after her time off," Faehn said. "We definitely saw in that short amount of time that she had tremendous potential, and that she could, with time, get her skill back."

Faehn said that a positive attitude and strong work ethic were other reasons for her wanting Gladys on the team.

Despite all of her hard work, Gladys only got to compete in an exhibition event last year at Boise State.

Since last season, her skills improved greatly, and she was able to break into the Gators lineup in their first meet this season.

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"Over the summer she trained very hard, and this year she has been breaking out," Faehn said. "Everything has been clicking for her."

Faehn said it is amazing that she was able to come back, especially since even just a few weeks off can be torture to a gymnast's body and skills.

Gladys will once again compete on the vault for No. 1 UF this Friday against No.17 Auburn, as the Gators try to rebound from their first regular season loss since Jan. 27, 2006.

Two falls on the bars event by Nicola Willis and Ashley Reed hurt the Gators in their loss to No.2 Georgia, but Faehn doesn't expect falls to be a problem again this meet.

"Nicola's was not typical of her; it was very random, so I don't think that will affect her at all," Faehn said.

Reed tried a new skill during her fall but has decided to go back to her routine from last year.

Gladys and the Gators shouldn't have a problem regrouping after the loss and continuing their dominance over the Tigers - UF is 50-11 all-time versus Auburn.

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