Howell Gymnast Overcomes Injuries To Win First Place

Howell Middle School South 8th grader Olivia Vega competes at the USA Gymnastics Level 8 Regional Competition in Pittsburgh on April 2. (Photo courtesy of Patti Magan)

HOWELL – Olivia Vega has dedicated her life to gymnastics for the past five years, but not without her fair share of adversity.

Howell Middle School South 8th grader Olivia Vega competes at the USA Gymnastics Level 8 Regional Competition in Pittsburgh on April 2. (Photo courtesy of Patti Magan)

Over the past couple years, the Middle School South 8th grader suffered not only a broken bone in her back but a broken elbow, which cost her last year’s season and required surgery to repair.

But this year paints a much different picture. Olivia recently competed in the USA Gymnastics Level 8 Regional Competition in Pittsburgh on April 2, an event that is reserved for the very best gymnasts from six states – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

“She’s a remarkable kid,” said her proud mother Patti Magan. “This was really the very first season she’s been able to train fully to her potential without an injury and the results definitely showed.”

Olivia was crowned as the Regional Champion on the Uneven Bars, an event that requires enormous strength and determination, beating out gymnasts from six competing states. She also placed third in the All-Around category, which means she earned high scores on every event she competed in, including the uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercises and vault.

Vega competes on the uneven bars. (Photo courtesy of Patti Magan)

Olivia currently trains with Natalia Tokareva at Action Gymnastics in Freehold and puts in four-hour days, six days a week training at the gym. She said her coach and team have become like a second family to her.

Her mother said one of the biggest keys to her success, aside from her natural gift for the sport, is her coachable attitude.

“She has had so much working against her, and I am so very happy that she’s come back against such difficult obstacles,” said Magan.

She is excited to compete on Howell High School’s gymnastics team next year, even though it means practice every day after school. Beyond high school, Olivia hopes to earn a gymnastics scholarship to college and has dreams of practicing medicine, perhaps as a doctor or surgeon, providing the same care she received during her many injuries.

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Sara Grillo is the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. Readers can contact her by emailing [email protected]