Gymnast attempts final comeback of UI career

By Wesley Deberry

Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

Nov. 27, 2006 was just another day of practice for Melissa Singer. Standing on a brown balance beam, she attempted a back flip but landed awkwardly, falling to the blue mat below. She fractured her foot.

“The first thing that went through my mind was how long will I be out for,” Singer said.

She sustained a Lisfranc fracture. In her case, the severity of the injury required surgery and forced her to wear a cast. Singer plans to have the cast removed next week, but it is doubtful that she will be able to participate in her final year.

The road to recovery will be difficult for Singer, but this will not be the first obstacle she has had to overcome throughout her collegiate career.

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“Everyone says that it’s a long shot, but I still have a goal to compete one more time,” Singer said.

In August 2003, Singer entered G.E. Kenney gym as a walk-on for the Illini gymnastics team.

“It was overwhelming my freshman year seeing how good everyone was,” Singer said.

However, she didn’t let her fear get in the way of becoming a member of the team. Singer worked to elevate her game to the level of her more-skilled teammates. With the help of coach Kim Landrus, Singer improved dramatically in her weakest area: the balance beam.

“Coach Landrus has always been real tough on me, but I think she has turned me into the best athlete I can be,” Singer said.

Singer’s hard work paid off in the first week of competition her freshman year when she was thrown into the starting lineup on vault. Though nervous, Singer scored a 9.725, remained in the starting vault lineup for the rest of the season and earned Scholastic All-American Honors.

In her sophomore year, Singer continued her improvement and received an athletic scholarship.

“We wanted to reward Singer for all of her hard work and dedication,” head coach Bob Starkell said.

Singer was named to the Academic All-Big Ten her sophomore and junior years. She was named team captain her senior year.

While Singer said that she loves spending time with her teammates, she is not planning on coming back for a fifth year if she cannot compete this year. She plans to attend graduate school at Northwestern University in pursuit of a career in physical therapy.