Throughout her career, Heather Elswick has made the All-SEC Team, won three event titles, is a three-time member of the community service team and is a three-time member of the SEC academic honor roll. The Arkansas Travelersat down with the senior gymnast to discuss her passion for the sport, overcoming injuries and her dog.
What is your motivation in life?
To become successful, and it comes along with doing everything to the best of my ability and not being disappointed with anything that I might not be successful at right away, but to keep pushing through.
Who is your role model?
My parents are my role models. I definitely think they are equal when it comes to being role models. They are supportive in everything I do and drive nine hours to come to almost every single meet. They have three kids, and they really put time into each one of us. I have a great relationship with my parents.
When did you find your passion?
I didn’t have a gymnastics background in my family. I remember my mom telling me the story of when I watched the World’s competition in 1996, and I was 2 years old. She said, “You were watching the meet and you didn’t have much clarity on what was going on. You pointed to the TV and said ‘I want to do that.’” She said, “All right, I am going to put you in some gymnastics classes.” We did some mom and tot classes. I picked it up really easily, and it was a natural thing. I was doing dance at the same time, and I started to become more competitive in both. She told me I had to pick one of them because I couldn’t do both to become successful. I made that decision when I was 6.
Was there ever a time where you faced a challenge?
I have faced many challenges because it comes along with the sport. This past year I suffered from a ligament tear wrist injury, and I have never had to get surgery before. I decided to push through the pain and try to compete for my final season. I made the decision to get surgery in February. That put me out for eight months. I had to make that really hard decision knowing that I may not get another year, or I may just not know how it would turn out afterward. I had to push hard through therapy to get back as soon as possible. They offered me another year. It was scary, and I didn't know how my body would respond, especially being 22 years old. It’s a lot different. Your body does not heal as quickly as when you’re 10 or 11. Coming back from that has been a huge experience. It was something that really tested my faith and just my ability to trust myself and trust in everything that I have been doing from the beginning of this sport.
That was the biggest test for me. The unknown of the future and what it would hold after the surgery.
What do you do in your free time?
I have a miniature Australian Shepherd named Ryker. I like to take him to the dog park to play. He is so cute because he is a mini. I love Netflix, relaxing, shopping and coloring. I want to be a physical therapist, and I have been shadowing at UAMS right off of campus.
How did you decide your major?
I went through a lot of physical therapy throughout the last 10 years. I fell in love with it right when I started to go into that field. I really believe in it and I think that’s something you have to be knowledgeable about. You have to believe in the miracles that can happen and anything that can come out of it.
The quotes in this story have been condensed.