By Gina Pongetti Angeletti, MPT

Ragan Smith was just minutes away from competing in her first World all-around final one year ago when she had to pull out due to injury. It was a competition she was heavily favored to win. Now, she’s back and ready to push, full force, toward Tokyo.

Feature Photo by Grace Chiu

On a team with no 2016 Olympic member, in the year of an individual World Championships, Ragan Smith (Texas Dreams) entered the all-around competition at 2017 Worlds with something to prove: she was more than a steady alternate. She was more than a great junior who rose to the senior ranks during an Olympic year. She was more than a cute kid with a great floor routine… she could stand with the World’s best, and this was supposed to be her year to start the new quad and push for Tokyo with a stamp of dominance…

That was until a six second vault changed everything. A faulty landing in warmups, literally moments before the start of the meet, sidelined Smith with a severe ankle sprain. She would end up watching her teammate, friends and competitors compete for the rest of the competition while on crutches.

Smith was no stranger to how to handle rehab and rebounding, but returning to the position of watching from the stands was not on her itinerary in Canada.

Morgan Hurd (First State) went on to become the United States’ 11th Women’s World All-Around Champion, while Smith returned to Texas with a mission and a plan… but, most importantly, a goal to get better as fast as possible.

The hiatus that spans fall and winter for elite gymnastics is hard from a self-motivation perspective anyway… waiting to show progress, anticipating camps to come around and eagerly planning for spring season to commence. Smith’s job shifted from routine code changes to learning to jump again, something she could do in her sleep just months before. Her focus changed from upgrades to uphill walking. Through it all, she stayed positive, smiling and evoking a sense of silent leadership that inspired many.

I stayed positive in my rehab because Kim [Zmeskal] helped me realize it was just a setback,” Smith stated. “Kim and Chris were positive that I could heal and compete again and helped me remember that every day.”

Springtime came, and the City of Jesolo Trophy meet presented itself as a great opportunity to test nerves and get back on the horse.

“Being at Jesolo competing really helped me know that I was ready to compete again after my foot injury at Worlds,” Smith explained. “I have competed in the Jesolo meet four times, so it helped that it was a familiar place. Building confidence was the key.”

Through days, weeks and months of strength training, physical therapy and endurance rebuilding, her attitude remained unchanged: do the work, hold your head high and keep the faith.

My mother and father both stay positive by encouraging me and helping me get to rehab!” Smith said. “They have all certainly helped me stay positive through the ups and downs.”

Her gym, Texas Dreams, allows for the energy of one plus one to equal so much more than just two. Combine Smith, this amazing talent and ball of energy, with Zmeskal, Olympian and World Champion, to guide you through it… Plus a strong team and support system in Deanne Soza, Emma Malabuyo, Annie Beard, Abi Walker and more, pushing each other day in and day out…

We all help each other feel good by encouraging each other,” Smith said. “Since we are all training elite…. it is great to have teammates that understand what it takes to be a U.S. team member. We make each other laugh and have fun outside of the gym, too!”

Coming into the GK U.S. Classic in Columbus, Zmeskal had a plan: compete if you are ready, fill routines with what is prepared, aim for consistency and, most important, just get back out there and settle in. Smith did just that.

“It is very important to me that I was an alternate in the 2016 Olympics, and it does make me feel like I was an important part of that process,” Smith said. “Now, it is a new group of girls and a new push for the Olympics, so I am a leader with that experience!”

Smith’s thoughts on her biggest domestic competitor, Simone Biles?

“Simone is amazing, and it is great that she is back… it doesn’t even seem like she was ever gone!”

We look forward to seeing Smith put four events together here in Boston. She’s ready to show everyone that her patience through the healing has paid off. That smiling face and bouncy personality is back!

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