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Utah Utes gymnastics: Bijak overcomes adversity

SHARE Utah Utes gymnastics: Bijak overcomes adversity

Thinking back on Friday night, Utah sophomore gymnast Daria Bijak isn't sure how she finished the meet after hyperextending her knee on vault, the first event.

"I still can't believe I finished up the meet. It's kind of weird to me right now. I think I just did it for myself. I just didn't want to accept the fact that I was hurt again," said Bijak, who had two knee surgeries her freshman year and badly sprained both ankles last fall and then missed some in-season time with illness.

"I was really scared because I've done that a lot of times already," she said, but she added, "I can tell right away if it's serious or not. I could tell it wasn't broken or anything right away."

She said she's been told by trainer Tom Iriye to take a couple days off from tumbling and hard landings "because it's kind of painful when I bend it all the way or straighten it all the way, so I don't have the full range of motion back. If I would tumble and land really low, I could reinjure it."

Bijak — who came to Monday's practice with her blond hair dyed medium brown — scored 9.175 after collapsing to the mat on her vault landing but came back to score 9.875 on bars, 9.90 on beam and 9.825 on floor.

The injury and a comment from assistant coach Jeff Graba, who oversees bars, helped her, she said.

"I was really nervous to keep doing my routines. Before bars, Jeff came over and was like, 'Stop trying to be perfect and just do it.' I think that's what I did. I didn't try to do everything perfect, and it turned out to be really good."

She recalled doing a bars set at Michigan and scoring 9.90 because she was able to relax also, but she's not sure if the lesson is ingrained, though she said she's gotten better about it. "Usually before meets I get really excited and nervous the night before, and now I'm to the point where it starts in the meet, so that's actually good. It doesn't freak me out two days before."

TEAM EFFORT: The group of shirtless men at Friday's meet with "We (heart) Daria" painted on their chests was the Ute swim team. "I'm really good friends with some of them, and we hang out sometimes, and they just wanted to make me happy, I guess," she said.

JACQ UPDATE: Freshman Jacqueline Johnson is doing better with the broken metatarsal in her foot, said coach Greg Marsden, but she isn't going to be able to compete at all this season. "We're just still not able to tumble or vault or land on it. Not any hard landings," he said.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com