Gymnast battles through injury

Club athlete competes for school team


On the parallel bars, junior Kian Sullivan competes in a meet at Niles West on March 12. Sullivan scored an 8.8, placing third.

Rubbing his hands in honey and chalk, junior Kian Sullivan prepared to face the parallel bars. Not only was this his final event in the John Burkel Invitational, but the parallel bars was also the same event responsible for an ongoing stress fracture in his back. He ended up placing third in the meet with a score of 8.8 out of 10 on March 12.

“There are a lot of aches and pains,” said Sullivan. “Most of them are in my back, some in other parts of my body, but [the parallel bars are] really fun.”

Sullivan made the decision to take a break from club gymnastics and do school gymnastics this year because he could not bounce back to his level 10 skills, the highest level of gymnastics performed at a junior level.  

“I’d been working on [a complex parallel bar skill] for a little bit,” said Sullivan. “And one day I was feeling good, and I got all the way up into a handstand. And so, I made the skill, but in the process, I jumped down, and I was like, ‘Wow, [my back] hurts a lot. I’m gonna stop.’ And [the pain] just never got better after that.” 

After injuring his back two and a half years ago, Sullivan has tried to return to club gymnastics twice before joining the school gymnastics team. 

He originally pushed through the pain of his stress fracture, aggravating it further, Sullivan said. 

Because of the severity of his injury, Sullivan has only participated in pommel horse, parallel bars and still rings so far this high school season, he said. 

Sullivan loves doing gymnastics with the freedom to heal on the school team so he can stay connected to the sport, he said.

According to head coach Ryan Dul, he is pleased to have Sullivan on the team this year as he was out last year because of the injury.

“Kian’s a very, very talented gymnast, and the knowledge and the experience that he’s bringing can definitely help a lot of the other guys,” Dul said.

According to senior Jacob Brodson, Sullivan knows a lot about gymnastics because of his club experience, and has become a mentor in the spartan’s gym.

“Kian gave me the tip [that] when you’re on the parallel bars, you’ve got to look straight ahead throughout the entire skill,” said Brodson. “And that one little tip has helped me completely fix my dismount.” 

Sullivan has performed well on the pommel horse, placing top three in the event in all of the team’s meets. As of April 5, the team is seeded as 15th in the state for the sectional competition. The team also has a season team high score of 134.2 and is scheduled to compete in the Hinsdale Central Sectionals on May 2. 

“I feel like every turn I take, I know something could happen,” said Sullivan in a phone interview. “It could be one of the last [skills I do]. So, I’m just really taking it in and enjoying gymnastics for as long as I can.”