Overcoming injury, Johnson returns

Jasmine Johnson finishes a routine on the mat in McGonigle Hall during a recent practice. | Kelsey Dubinsky TTN
Jasmine Johnson finishes a routine on the mat in McGonigle Hall during a recent practice. | Kelsey Dubinsky TTN

On Feb. 1, Jasmine Johnson stood at the edge of the floor mat at McGonigle Hall. The women’s gymnastics team was competing in the Ken Anderson Invite, and the floor exercise was an area the Owls had been struggling with up to that point.

But moments later, Johnson stuck a tricky dismount known as the Arabian double front – a back handspring with half-a-turn and two front flips in the air.  The crowd exploded in applause as the senior continued through a routine that earned her a team-high score of 9.8.

The effort led the way for Temple’s turnaround in the event and season, as the team won the Ken Anderson Invite against four other teams and went on to win its next two invites as well.

Johnson’s highest individual score of the year was a culmination of determination after injuries to her shoulder and wrist prevented her from competing her junior season.  Rehab was long, and she still has occasional pain, but one teammate said the bigger obstacle may have been the mental battle she had to overcome.

“Specifically, the thing you injure yourself on, there’s always going to be that mental block to climb over,” senior Sylvie Borschel said. “And when you come back, you think that every event you do is going to affect that one thing.”

Johnson has not let the injury affect her performance this season, as she has excelled in the floor routine – the one that earned her season-best score at the Ken Anderson Invite.

The routine is unconventional, as it combines modern dance moves with difficult dismounts and is designed to engage the crowd as much as possible. When executed, it showcases Johnson’s athletic abilities.

“It’s kind of a blind landing, so I have to know when to open up in the air,” Johnson said.  “So I count up to two seconds to know when to open up out of the double front flip to land.”

Johnson’s success is part of her overall development, coach Aaron Murphy said.

“That’s what myself and [assistant coach Deirdre Mattocks Bertotti] expect from this point,” Murphy said. “Our seniors have the experience, and she’s been doing that floor routine since her freshman year. When we put her out there, that’s what she wants as an athlete obviously, and that’s what Deirdre and I want as a coaching staff.”

“And we feel confident and comfortable putting her out there,” Murphy added. “Being the showman that she is with her dance and then also have explosive tumbling.”

Gymnastics is normally a sport associated with grace and beauty as much as it is power and flawless execution. But Johnson says she’s isn’t one of those gymnasts.

“You have different types of gymnasts – they can be graceful, or you can engage people with different types of dance moves,” Johnson said. “So since I’m not that graceful, I figured what’s a better way to bring in the crowd than with different types of moves that people might know and even do with their friends.”

Johnson said she places team success over her individual triumphs. Temple hosts the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships on March 22, and the senior hopes to go out on top.

“I would love for us to win the all-around as a team, that is my dream,” Johnson said. “I think we can definitely do it with the team this year. They’re very driven and hard-working, and I think we actually have a shot.”

Either way, Johnson’s consistency throughout her entire Temple career has impressed her head coach.

“Just being able to see that from 18 years of age in her freshman year until now, she’s remained constant,” Murphy said. “And that’s what we need at the college level, make sure they stay constant.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steven.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.

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