Former BYU gymnast turns disappointment into dream

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Emily Cannon was cut from the BYU gymnastics team last year, but she found a way to still participate in the sports she loves. (Sin To)

Emily Cannon was born to be a gymnast. For as long as she can remember, the sport has been part of her life.

“I started gymnastics when I was 3,” Cannon said. “My mom put me into all different sports, but gymnastics was the one that stuck. It was the sport I loved and the one I really felt was for me.”

Cannon is a former BYU gymnast and current BYU student. Though she was cut from the team, and her career with the Cougars didn’t turn out as expected, she learned how to turn disappointment into her dream of one day becoming a doctor.

The 5-foot-4-inch Cannon was raised in Park City, Utah, where there were few gymnastics facilities. Up until high school, she attended the same gym to practice her routines and skills.

“In Park City there was this smaller gymnastics club that isn’t really well known. I practiced there until my senior year of high school. I noticed during that time I wasn’t getting any better. I had totally hit a plateau and I had stayed at the same level for four years.”

Knowing that changes needed to be made, Cannon looked at other gyms to practice and train in different locations across Utah to better her chances at success.

“Finally I made the switch and started driving the hour commute to Sandy, Utah everyday.”

She nearly ruled out competing in college, but a visit from a BYU coach changed that.

“I never really wanted to do gymnastics in college, but my training coach at the time contacted BYU to come and take a look at me. I’ll admit I had a really good practice that day. Right after I finished practice, I was offered a walk-on spot on the team.”

When Cannon started training and practicing with the BYU gymnastics team her freshman year, she started training mainly on the floor and the vault. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury early on.

“My patellar tendon was torn from an overuse injury. I got that repaired, but it was a six month recovery. So during that time I was training and trying to get back to competing. I couldn’t do the heavy pounding events for a while so I ended up training mostly beam.”

As Cannon was healing, another option was on her mind; an LDS mission.

“As I was getting better from my knee injury, I had a lot more time to think. That’s when I decided to go on an LDS mission. It was crazy because I got better but, (I) felt it was right to go on a mission.”

When arriving back from serving her two-year LDS mission in Argentina, Cannon came back to a huge change: a new gymnastics coach.

“They had a complete coaching change. The new coach, Guard Young had never even heard of me. I walked into his office on the first day of school and explained who I was.”

Young was interested in Cannon but he couldn’t give her permission to work out in BYU’s gymnastics gym because it was a liability. Since coaches aren’t required to keep walk ons on any team, this was something Cannon was going to have to work hard for.

“I had missed tryouts since I was still on my mission. Guard told me that if I could go train somewhere, come back in six weeks and if he thought I was ready, I could have a spot on the team.”

Going back to the gym in Sandy, Cannon gave it her all.

“During that semester, I commuted back to that gym everyday,” Cannon said. “It was harder than before because I felt out of shape and I hadn’t been training. It was physically and mentally draining.”

Cannon went back after the six weeks of training to do a three-day tryout for coach Young.

“I only did a tryout for the beam event. I knew I had to put all my time and energy into one thing while I was on such a short time crunch. I didn’t have as much time as I did before since I was taking night classes. I would train and then drive back for my class. I did my tryout and they wanted me to stay.”

As excited as Cannon was to finally be back, she knew her body wasn’t ready.

“I wanted to be there and it was such a blessing to be back on the team. It was such an accomplishment for me to be able to walk back on,” Cannon said. “After not being able to compete the past season I almost had this renewed motivation to really commit to get more skills and to be better.”

Despite her strides, time and effort, Cannon was cut from the team this year because she could only compete in one event.

“I know this probably sounds crazy, but it felt like the sport broke up with me,” Cannon said. “Rejection isn’t easy.”

Coach Young contacted Cannon the week after she was cut from the team.

“I got a call from coach Guard (Young) and he asked to meet with me. He explained that he was sorry for what happened, but he wanted me to work for the BYU gymnastics team as the operations director. He thought that I could still do a lot for the program even if I wasn’t competing with the team.”

According to Cannon, Young considers her to be his “legs,” helping out with social media, working with sponsors and donors and working to increase gym-meet attendance.

Looking forward to the future, Cannon has some big dreams for herself not only to continue helping the team but for her career as well.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor — now being able to still have the gymnastics part of my life still there but to also now have the time to focus on school and the future — it’s made all the difference for me. (Medical) school is the goal now.”

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