It’s been a tough couple of years for men’s
gymnastics captain Chris Gatti. The redshirt junior competed last
week for the first time in almost two years.

Gatti injured his left wrist at the beginning of last season,
and the surgery to shorten his ulna by seven millimeters forced him
to spend a year on the bench. Gatti returned this season, having
been elected captain by his peers for the second straight year.

But his plans to compete were cut short when he began having
problems with his right elbow. He had surgery in December to clear
bone and cartilage chips out of his elbow and he has been working
to come back since.

“He’s slowly been training and trying to get back
into the season,” assistant coach Lou Levine said.
“This isn’t a sport where you can take time off and
then just come back and be ready. So he had to build back up and
get back into routines to be ready.”

For Gatti, the elbow problem came as a big surprise. He began
feeling numbness and locking in the joint at the end of November
and had surgery just a couple weeks later. The setback was hard to
take.

“Last year wasn’t as hard because I knew that the
surgery that I had was pretty extensive and I knew it would keep me
out for a while,” Gatti said. “So I accepted that
pretty easily. But hearing that I needed elbow surgery in December
was another shock. It was real disappointing. I had been sitting
out for so long.”

Last week was the first time in the last two years that the team
captain was able to lead by example in a competition. He turned in
no top-five performances. Because of the injuries, Gatti has had to
find other ways to lead.

“He leads by how hard he works,” Levine said.
“He’s a quiet guy, but when he speaks everybody
listens, and last year he couldn’t really lead by example.
But now he really can lead by competing well and working out
hard.”

Gatti admitted that being injured was a change for him too. He
had to take charge in different ways and learn to be more
vocal.

“It’s definitely tough (being captain and not being
able to compete),” Gatti said. “You are put into a
position where you want to be a leader by example. It’s hard
sitting on the sidelines and not being able to compete and hit your
routine.”

But the captain’s long recovery process is nearing an
end.

He has been practicing at full strength for a couple of months,
and last week at Oklahoma, he competed for the first time since the
2002 NCAA Championships.

“I felt good,” Gatti said. “I didn’t
have real difficult sets, but I did the skills that I wanted and
did everything pretty cleanly, so I was pleased. It was a good
start.”

Gatti looks to add difficulty and compete in the parallel bars
and high bar again this weekend when the No. 6 Wolverines travel to
Iowa. He is optimistic about the team as it heads into the last
month of the season.

“We just came off Spring Break training, which was a hard
week of training,” Gatti said. “It was a really good
week in terms of improvements and I think the team is really
starting to come together just in time for when we need it. NCAAs
is just five weeks away. So if we can gear up and peak for that,
we’ll be all set.”

Gatti will have to wait and see whether he will be in the lineup
for the postseason. But just being able to compete and practice at
full strength is a pleasant change for the captain.

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