CHICAGO – For junior Ben Baldus-Strauss, a trip with the men’s gymnastics team to the Windy City Invitational this past weekend was more than just another competition – it was a reminder of his health and his injury-plagued career as a Wolverine.

Baldus-Strauss has endured a cycle of sport-related injuries since the beginning of his college gymnastics career.

His freshman year started with a stress fracture to his wrist. He was in a cast for about a month but was back and competing by February. Baldus-Strauss made it through most of that season unharmed until NCAA preliminaries.

In the final stretch of his freshman season, Baldus-Strauss broke his left ankle and tore his deltoid ligament. He didn’t compete in the NCAA team finals, and it took him nearly four months to complete rehab.

His first meet back was the opener to his sophomore campaign at the 2009 Windy City Invitational.

“I was second up on the first event,” Baldus-Strauss said. “I missed my hand, peeled off the (high) bar, and caught my knee on the mat weird. I ended up partially tearing my MCL, so that put me out yet another month.”

Despite another setback, Baldus-Strauss finished the 2009 season strong. He received an Academic All-Big Ten selection and was a 2009 Big Ten individual event finalist on the vault.

And as he returned this past weekend to the same Chicago gymnasium, a year after his last injury, he was definitely apprehensive.

“I think my freshman year on vault, when I got hurt, I was just so confident that I didn’t even think twice about where I was in the air,” Baldus-Strauss said. “I was just programmed to do it. But now I am much more careful thinking about absorbing the landing and having my feet in the right position.”

He considers his knee injury to be the result of an unlucky fluke, so performing in the same atmosphere and on top of the same mats brought increased anxiety to his high-bar routine. As an extra precaution, the Michigan coaches kept a second mat underneath Baldus-Strauss during the event.

More than anything, Baldus-Strauss hopes to finish his last two years as injury-free as possible. Though his motivation may have been stunted in the past, he has high ambitions for the rest of his college career.

“One goal I have for myself is All-American by my senior year,” Baldus-Strauss said. “But in terms of the team, we obviously want to repeat the Big Ten Championship and hopefully an NCAA Championship.”

Like any serious competitor, pain, loss of practice, and watching your team go on without you, can easily take a toll on both mental and physical capabilities. But, Baldus-Strauss believes he has become a stronger gymnast through injuries.

“My injuries have taught me that you have to be so aware during every skill,” Baldus-Strauss said. “You can’t ever take anything for granted, because anything can go wrong and result in an injury.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.