Vindicator Logo

Gymnast Worley breaks leg

Saturday, July 19, 2008

She was injured warming up for a U.S. selection camp.

NEW WAVERLY, Texas (AP) — Shayla Worley’s trip to the Beijing Olympics ended in rural Texas.

Worley broke her right fibula Friday just below the knee during warm-ups for the Olympic selection camp, essentially ending her chances of making the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team. She fought back tears as she left the gym, on crutches with her right leg in a black protective boot.

“It’s unlikely she’d be able to compete” in Beijing, said Dr. Scott Rand, a team physician.

The women’s team leaves for Beijing July 31, and competition begins Aug. 10. She was still being evaluated at Huntsville Memorial Hospital, so it wasn’t immediately clear how long her recovery will be or whether she’ll need surgery.

The injury is the latest blow for Worley, who began the year as a favorite for Beijing after being part of the squad that won the gold medal at last fall’s world championships but has been slowed by back and leg injuries. When healthy, she is one of the Americans’ best on uneven bars, an event that will be critical in the battle with the Chinese for the gold medal.

“We feel very bad about the fact that she could not be competitive, because she was a great asset last year to the world team,” said Martha Karolyi, the national team coordinator. “She’s a nice gymnast and has good competitive spirit.”

This is the second time in three days a broken leg has knocked a U.S. athlete out of the Olympics; Abby Wambach, the leading scorer on the U.S. soccer team, had surgery Thursday after breaking her left tibia and fibula in the team’s final warm-up game Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, gymnast Chellsie Memmel made a quick recovery after getting a case of whiplash during her floor exercise routine. Memmel, whose head snapped back when she bounced backward and out of bounds on her second tumbling pass, skipped vault and uneven bars, but rallied to compete on balance beam. Her score of 15.9 was the second-best score of the day; Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone all scored 16.2s.

Worley missed the national championships with a back injury and was still feeling the effects of it at last month’s Olympic trials.

But Karolyi said she wanted to give Worley all the time she could to prove herself, and the 17-year-old was one of 10 gymnasts invited to compete for the last four spots on the six-woman team at the two-day selection camp. Johnson and Liukin already have secured their spots after a 1-2 finish at last month’s Olympic trials.

There was an all-around meet Friday, and the gymnasts will do at least two events today before the team is picked.

Worley was smiling early in warm-ups Friday and talking with other gymnasts. But Rand said she heard a “pop” when she landed on the balance beam, and she was immediately taken into the training room. She left shortly afterward to get X-rays.

Rand said the break, just below her knee, is not displaced, meaning the bone has not moved.