Faehn returns with Gators No. 1


Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 11:41 p.m.

There aren't many people who had a better week than Rhonda Faehn. In the last seven days, Faehn became a new mother as well as the head coach of the nation's No. 1-ranked gymnastics team.

"I couldn't have asked for more," Faehn said.

Faehn returned to the Gators on Sunday just days after giving birth to her son Noah Emile Bayon on Jan. 8. The birth forced Faehn to miss Florida's season-opening win over Illinois-Chicago on Friday, when the Gators posted their highest season-opening score in school history, a 197.125.

The score catapulted Florida one spot to No. 1 in this week's GymInfo top 25 poll.

"It was great to see how they performed without me there and how strong they are," Faehn said. "They can compete under any circumstance."

The Gators, on Monday, said they missed their head coach in the five days she was gone. The feeling was mutual.

"Her presence means a lot to us," senior Ashley Reed said. "She really motivates the team. She's someone who can just be there for you. It's a blessing to have her back and we're really happy for her."

Junior Corey Hartung said the entire team hugged Faehn at practice Sunday.

"I think she had tears in her eyes because she was so excited to be back and to see us," Hartung said.

Surely, it would have been understandable if Faehn took more time away from the team to care for her child. However, Faehn's passion for her Florida gymnastics family is just as strong.

"It's not easy," Faehn said. "But (gymnastics) is my life, too. I've always said from day one: This is not a job. This is my passion."

Faehn talked about coaching Florida in its season opener prior to giving birth. However, the coach was still in the hospital at meet time. It was an anxious Friday night for Faehn.

Without access to a computer, Faehn began text messaging the wife of Florida assistant Adrian Burde for updates during the meet.

"I wanted to know what each gymnast was doing: Were they wobbling? How was their warmups?" Faehn said. "(Darcie Burde) was giving me constant feedback. That was very, very helpful."

Still, there were some anxious moments at the hospital.

"Right before going on beam my hands just got wet because I was so anxious for them," Faehn said.

Now comes the big test. Faehn is expected to be at the O'Connell Center on Friday when No. 1 Florida faces No. 2 Georgia at 7 p.m.

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