Fear is an emotion almost antithetical with gymnastics.
Junior Stephanie Stoicovy embodies this point, her rabid taste for the sport overcomes any nerves she might have – even last year, she suffered a shoulder tear that required surgery. Sidelined for the first five meets of the season, Stoicovy worried about being kept out of the entire 2011 season, but ultimately returned for the last five meets of the year. The beginning of the 2012 season marked her first complete return to a full season of competition after the injury, and Stoicovy quickly marked that return, setting a new career-high in her first meet back.
“I don’t know if I actually had fear of coming back,” Stoicovy said. “As soon as I found out, I really just got on track to wanting to get back.”
This season, Stoicovy’s taken to the mat to present the best gymnastics of her career. She opened competition at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational Jan. 15 and quickly ascended to the top of the podium, winning all-around individual honors with a career-high score of 38.700.
Stoicovy sees 2012 as her redemption season, a chance to build upon her freshman year and make up for lost time as a sophomore. Over GW’s eight meets this year, she’s been a consistent force for the Colonials, earning a place on the podium for the all-around in all but one meet.
The day before the Pittsburgh meet March 3, Stoicovy recorded a 9.925 on the floor exercise in practice, and promptly echoed that score the next day to set a new personal record. In the same meet, she also nabbed a second-place finish in the all-around with a 38.375.
Stoivocy is being motivated by the memory of her injury, head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said. She’s determined to prove that a small setback won’t define her as a gymnast.
“The injury really made Steph dig deep and realize how much she wanted to compete for GW,” Foster-Cunningham said. “She has been a great example of the fact [that] you can come back even stronger following an injury.”
When Stoicovy was relegated to the sidelines as a sophomore, she was stopped from performing for the first time since she picked gymnastics up as a toddler.
Eager to return to the mat, Stoicovy pushed herself in rehab with the help of her doctors and trainers – sometimes so far that she needed to be reined back to avoid further injury, Stoicovy said.
It’s that drive, that passion, that makes Stoicovy such a force to be reckoned with, her head coach said. Simply by virtue of her desire to succeed, Foster-Cunningham sees the junior pushing the rest of the Colonials to raise their own levels of competition.
“Steph is a fierce competitor. The example she has set for the team is invaluable. She displays her desire to succeed everyday in practice,” Foster-Cunningham said. “The difference between Steph and other athletes, is that she practices how she competes. That is more difficult then most people think.”
Stoicovy’s success is a combination of many things, the junior said – time spent rehabbing, experience and strong coaching. She credits Foster-Cunningham with continuing to push forward to her fullest potential, an effort that inspires the junior to continue envisioning areas of improvement.
Still, gymnastics has never been about personal accolades for Stoicovy. It’s the passion behind the sport, where every time she steps onto the mat, she thinks about who she’s representing and what the routine means to her.
“Each routine is a build off of the one before it,” Stoicovy said. “When you’re up there, you’re not like competing for yourself, you’re competing for your teammates, your coaches; we’re competing for GW. So every single skill that you do, you have your team in mind.”