Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Tuesday, March 05, 2024
<p>Jamie Shisler (far right) watches on during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30 in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Jamie Shisler (far right) watches on during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30 in the O'Connell Center.

Within seconds, Jamie Shisler knew it was over.

Her day.

Her season.

Her career.

She was done.

When Florida takes on Kentucky tonight in the O’Connell Center, athletes will perform in front of thousands of fans, living their dream. A few will be seniors, savoring one of their final competitions as their careers come to an end.

But for Shisler, that end came long before she had the chance to savor any senior moments.

Standing in a small gym in Muncie, Indiana, the senior prepared to warm up on floor, an event she was scheduled to exhibition in that afternoon against Ball State.

It was Florida’s first competition of the year, and hope was abundant - particularly for Shisler.

She was coming off her best preseason as a Gator, and for the first time since her sophomore campaign, she felt like she had a real chance to play a significant role.

She had made only one competitive lineup during her entire junior season and was overjoyed to finish her career on a much better note.

If that wasn’t enough, she had just earned a scholarship that offseason after being a walk-on for her first three years.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

Life couldn’t be better.

She began her routine. It was basic, a routine she could almost do in her sleep.

She felt good, and with one final tumbling pass of her warm-up remaining, the senior started a double pike — a double flip with legs together and hips and knees bent, rather ordinary for a gymnast with Shisler’s experience.

Part of the move is a punch, the moment where you bounce off the floor to start the flip.

But when she punched, something wasn’t right.

"It was the strangest feeling," Shisler said. "It felt like I bottomed out on the floor."

Her immediate thought was her leg had simply given out, but when she attempted to pick herself up off the floor, she fell back down again.

The trainer rushed over and helped Shisler crawl off the floor, and as she did the senior caught a glimpse of her foot.

"I knew exactly what I had done," she said.

Shisler tore her Achilles tendon, effectively ending her gymnastics career.

There was no pain, no discomfort — just the sickening feeling of finality.

What was supposed to be a memorable senior season was instead going to consist of her standing — or resting on crutches — unceremoniously on the sidelines for the rest of the year.

"I was absolutely devastated for like 24 hours," she said.

But after those 24 hours, her mindset changed.

"For me to sit around and have a poor attitude isn’t going to help anyone, so I’ve just gotta snap out of it," she thought to herself.

From that moment, Shisler made it her goal to do everything in her power to help the team, whether that be keeping Bridget Sloan company during rehab, filming training sessions or simply providing inspiration through her positive attitude.

Initially, she thought she would feel a disconnect with her teammates, but by taking on the different roles available to her, she felt just as connected as ever.

Coach Rhonda Faehn also allows her to travel with the team, something that has meant the world to Shisler.

"I care so deeply and passionately about the team that I want to see them succeed," Shisler said, "and to not be with them for every step of the journey - I would have died."

After rehabbing four days a week for the last seven weeks, Shisler plans to be at tonight’s meet without crutches for the first time.

And by Senior Night on March 13, she hopes to be able to wear two shoes again.

Of the many reasons to be excited about that, one sticks out to Shisler: She will be able to help move mats in training.

That type of attitude exemplifies Shisler’s character, and it’s what Faehn appreciates most about Shisler through this entire ordeal.

"She has handled it better than anyone I‘ve ever worked with," Faehn said. "It touches my heart that she is still so incredibly spirited and hardworking for this team even though she’s not able to compete, and she’s always been that way from Day 1."

And it makes a difference for her teammates, too.

"It’s huge," Faehn said. "They absolutely love Jamie. Her mindset and her positive attitude, it just flows to everyone else.

"It’s that ‘I’ll do anything for this team’ (mentality) - the girls feel it, they feed off of it."

Faehn appreciates her impact so much that she actually offered Shisler a spot on the team next year through a medical redshirt.

Shisler is undecided if she will take the offer — she is unsure how the injury will heal, and she has a job offer to work in marketing for Nike.

But no matter her decision, she is grateful for her time at Florida, and she wouldn’t ask for anything more.

"For someone who thought they were gonna get cut in the first week, it’s been a dream come true," Shisler said. "I think that’s part of the reason why I haven’t been so devastated. How could you recreate something that’s been this great and this magical and this fantastic?"

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Jamie Shisler (far right) watches on during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30 in the O'Connell Center.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.