Freedom High senior overcomes hip injury to shine in gymnastics
NEW TAMPA — Few things in gymnastics are easy, but Jade Martin makes the sport look effortless.
The 17-year-old rising senior of Freedom High School has trained since she was 3. She practices at least three hours a day, five days a week. Her hard work shows in gymnastics competitions, where she consistently dominates the field.
And her success belies the fact she overcame a debilitating injury that almost caused her to quit the sport.
Jade starting winning competitions and placing in the top three in 2007 at the age of 7. Over the last eight years, she has reached USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program, and is currently training for Level 10, the highest level in the sanctioning body’s Junior Olympic program and one notch below elite.
However, even with years of experience in gymnastics, she is still a student of the game ready to learn new things.
“She’s naturally talented,” said Alexis MacLellan, her coach at Tampa Gymnastic and Dance in New Tampa. “Just watching her you can see a beautiful dancer, melodic, just natural athletic ability, but she’s really learned to embrace more of the mental aspect of it and become a lot tougher mentally.”
Jade’s fearlessness as she attacks the beam and her gracefulness throughout her floor routine impressed the judges in Lansing, Mich., at the Eastern Nationals this past April. Martin won top honors in beam and placed second in the all-around for her cumulative scores in beam, bars, floor, and vault for her age group.
She earned the trip to the Eastern Nations by placing first in all-around in the state meet and the regional championships, where she bested Level 9 gymnasts in her age group from eight states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Jade cherishes these accomplishments the most because they came after taking a year off from gymnastics due to hip surgery in 2015. A torn labrum caused hip instability, and after years of continuous, training, competing and pounding, Jade’s body started to break down. She developed overuse injury in her hip.
“A lot of things started hurting like my elbows,” she said. “I almost got stress fractures in both of my elbows. They were very painful at the time.”
With so much excruciating pain, Jade reasoned her time with gymnastics had ended, and took a break.
“I’d rather be able to walk and have a normal life when I’m 30 or 35, then be in pain all the time,” she reasoned.
Everything hurt. Once while in the grocery store with her mom where after just five minutes she struggled to walk down the aisle. She had to sit because the pain became unbearable and she started crying in the store.
“I couldn’t go to the mall, I couldn’t go anywhere to walk, and it actually wasn’t as bad in the gym as it was in just day to day activities.”
It was not until she realized how much it was impacting her daily walking that she and Dr. Adam Morse, a Florida Orthopedic Institute surgeon, decided to do surgery on her hip.
The surgery went well but Jade had doubts about returning to gymnastics. Nevertheless, she slowly eased back into her passion.
“I decided to come back to the gym once a week doing minimal things just to see if I would like it as much as I did before,” she said., “I ended up loving it even more and just came back full force.”
It was not an easy road. Jade endured aggressive physical therapy to get back to gymnastics, and even after physical therapy, she had to work hard to get back in shape once doctors cleared her to return to workouts.
Jade had to start from scratch and learn how to walk again. One would never be able to tell what her body has endured.
“As much as I want to take all the credit, her diligence, hard work, and determination to push rehab to the next level is what brought her back, she is an outstanding athlete,” Dr. Morse said.
Now that the pain and surgery are behind her, Jade dreams of going to Cornell University and earning a scholarship for gymnastics. A vegan who loves animals, she wants to become a veterinarian.
“I would absolutely love to be a veterinarian, and being a coach in gymnastics is definitely my backup plan.”
But first, there are more competitions as she prepares for her senior year and the 2017-18 season.
Contact Monique Welch at email@example.com.