After 7 knee surgeries, Stucky is back

Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 1:28 a.m.
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University of Florida gymnast Kristen Stucky, a junior from Menomonee Falls, Wis., will be competing in her first home meet on Friday. Because of her seven knee surgeries, her previous home performances were limited to exhibition routines.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun


Gators tonight

  • WHAT: No. 17 Minnesota (0-2), No. 23 Kentucky (2-1) and Bowling Green (1-0) at No. 7 Florida (4-2).
  • WHEN: 7, tonight.
  • WHERE: O'Connell Center.

  • Seven might be a lucky number for some people.
    For Florida gymnast Kristen Stucky, the number has another significance. That's how many knee surgeries the junior has gone through in her career.
    After limited routines her first two seasons, Stucky has competed since the start of this year on the uneven bars and balance beam.
    "Having seven knee surgeries, she's really a miracle - a walking miracle," teammate Kara Waterhouse said.
    Stucky will perform her first competitive routine at home tonight when seventh-ranked Florida goes against No. 17 Minnesota, No. 23 Kentucky and Bowling Green at 7 in the O'Connell Center.
    "I'm really looking forward to being able to compete and not just exhibition," Stucky said. "It'll be my first time ever in front of a home crowd."
    First-year UF coach Rhonda Faehn said Stucky has been "a tremendous inspiration" in overcoming the surgeries.
    "It's wonderful not only to have her as a team captain, but that's wonderful for those athletes that may be struggling with a chronic injury or any pain in general, they can look to her to see what she has overcome," Faehn said. "They can look to her for advice on how to get through those difficult situations."
    Stucky's teammates say she provides inspiration in another way.
    "All of us are always in awe," Waterhouse said. "It's so beautiful to watch her. It's like she hasn't been out of a gym for a day. All of us who have been training all along wonder if we will ever get to look like that - to have that kind of moves and be that graceful."
    That grace is restricted to just the bars and beam. Faehn said the injuries probably will prevent Stucky from competing in the all-around, an area the Menomonee Falls, Wis., native was strong in during her club days.
    Stucky was part of a highly decorated recruiting class when she signed with the Gators. She was a five-year member of the U.S. National Team, including the 1997 gold-medal performance at the International Team Championships. At that meet, she was the runner-up in the all-around.
    "Not only is she extremely talented as far as her skill level and uniqueness of her skills, but also she carries the grace and the poise; just the all-around package coaches look for in an athlete," said Faehn, who tried recruiting Stucky to Nebraska when she was an assistant with the Cornhuskers.
    In 1998, she was the bars champion and the all-around runner-up at the U.S. Classic.
    That year also marked the beginning of a long battle of problems in her left knee. During a floor exercise routine, Stucky tore her anterior cruciate ligament while attempting a 2 twist.
    But Stucky found out that ACL repairs were not that routine.
    "When I had my first, initial injury to my left leg, my first doctor messed up my surgery," Stucky said. "I had to see another doctor to fix it, so that's why I had three more."
    Stucky had a successful comeback, as she won the all-around and beam title at the 2000 Twistar Invitational. Then problems arose in her right knee.
    Nine days into preseason training her freshman season, Stucky tore the ACL and medial collateral ligament in her right knee.
    Then during rehabilitation on the right knee, trainers discovered Stucky retore her left ACL, and she had two more surgeries starting September of 2001. She recovered from that surgery and was an impact in the postseason last year.
    On her first competitive routine in more than two years, Stucky scored a collegiate-best 9.875 on the bars at the SEC Championships. That was the second-highest UF score on the event, and she followed that with scores of 9.8 and 9.75 at the NCAA Central Regional and the NCAA Championships, respectively.
    "It was just such a thrill to be able to have that adrenaline and that competitive rush that every athlete has after an injury," Stucky said. "It was just great to be able to do something I love and make it so perfect. The icing on the cake was the dismount to show my legs are strong enough to do a dismount."
    The high scores have continued this season. In two meets, Stucky has scored a 9.825 or better on all her routines.
    Gymnastics tonight
  • WHAT: No. 17 Minnesota (0-2), No. 23 Kentucky (2-1) and Bowling Green (1-0) at No. 7 Florida (4-2).
  • WHEN: 7, tonight.
  • WHERE: O'Connell Center.
  • THE FACTS: The Gators have their best scoring start in school history. They are averaging 196.4125 in their first two meets. Also in the first two meets, the UF returners have set or matched 10 collegiate-high scores. Uneven bars has been a strong event for Florida. The Gators are ranked second - rankings are based on season highs - in the country on the event and they have the highest average in the nation. On the other events, they are 10th on the floor exercise, 13th on the balance beam and 16th on the vault.
    The file on Stucky
  • NAME: Kristen Stucky
  • HEIGHT: 5-1
  • YEAR: Junior
  • HOMETOWN: Menomonee Falls, Wis.
  • LAST SEASON: As a sophomore, scored 9.875 at the SEC Championships, her first competitive routine since Feb. 25, 2000. ... Tied for 4th in the uneven bars in the NCAA Central Region.
  • OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Was 5-year member of U.S. National Team. ... runner-up in 1998 U.S. Classic all-around. ... member of U.S. gold medal team at 1997 International Team Championships.
    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or
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