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Off the Beaten Path: Gymnasts' lesson for Boozer
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So Carlos Boozer is back. Should we care? What benefit will he bring to the team?

The Jazz insist they support their $68 million guy, pointing to the good shape he was in when training camp started as proof of his desire to help the team.

But how an athlete behaves while injured says as much, if not more, about his or her dedication to a team than when healthy.

Boozer? Well, he spent most of his rehab time in his newly purchased house in Los Angeles. When he did finally come back to Salt Lake, sometimes he'd watch a game from behind the bench, other times he'd go back in the training room, supposedly for treatment, while his teammates were out on the floor busting their butts.

Not exactly the most inspiring behavior, and quite opposite of what is going on up on the hill with Utah's gymnastics team. The Utes are ranked second in the country and are undefeated. A great amount of talent has gotten them to that lofty position, good leadership and desire have kept them there.

There is Nicolle Ford, the team's spunky junior who hates to come out of the lineup despite a wrist injury that sends shock waves of pain up her arm every time she performs, particularly when she plants off the vault. She is able to compete because doctors have determined it won't cause any more damage, it's just a matter of how much suffering she can grit through.

Speaking of grit, there is senior Gritt Hofmann, who came back from offseason wrist surgery in the best shape of her career, throwing tricks and routines she has never been able to do before.

Another senior, Kristen Riffanacht, rolled her ankle in the preseason and was limited to what she could compete in the first couple of meets, but the injury hasn't prevented her from being the hardest worker in the gym, according to coach Greg Marsden. She also has to wear a heat pack on her knee in between events to keep it warm. She doesn't make much of it, it's only a "tweak."

Sophomore Ashley Postell tore a ligament in her elbow in mid-November but put in extra hours of rehab (no multimillion dollar L.A. home needed) and was able to beat doctors' predictions and compete in the first meet.

Finally, there is former gymnast Rachel Tidd, who was forced to abandon gymnastics because of a persistent back injury. More painful than the injury was being in the gym, knowing she'd never compete again. But there she was at Utah's season opener, on the floor supporting her teammates.

None of the gymnasts are disregarding doctors' warnings or rushing rehab when they shouldn't. They're following orders, but by doing what they can, they're setting examples in the process. Boozer should pay attention.

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