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Tsawwassen gymnast now in elite form after serious back injury

Tsawwassen's Ryan Woodhead finishes sixth all-around in open men's division at Elite Canada competition in Saskatoon
Tsawwassen's Ryan Woodhead was sixth all-around in the senior men's competition at Elite Canada in Saskatoon.

It’s been quite the journey back to being among the best in the country for one of the most decorated athletes in the long history of Delta Gymnastics’ competitive program.

Ryan Woodhead figures he was about three years old when his parents signed him up for a development tumbling program when the club was still based out of its original home at the South Delta Recreation Centre. Years later, the Tsawwassen resident had established himself among the top male gymnasts in the country when he suffered a major back injury in 2016.

“I broke one vertebrate on the parallel bars and I had to stop all my training for about six months,” recalled the now 22-year-old Woodhead who is also coaching at the club. “Since then I have working my way back, one event at a time.”

The injury and recovery meant Woodhead initially could only compete in limited events. Still, he was healthy enough to win bronze on the same parallel bars at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

It wasn’t until a year ago when he finally was given a clean bill of health to compete in all six individual events at the Canadian Championships, finishing 10th.

With his hopes of earning a spot on the senior men’s national team, Woodhead headed to last month’s Elite Canada competition in Saskatoon. He stood eighth after day one of the all-around event, then cleaned up some mistakes to finish fourth on day two and sixth overall. Highlights included a third place finish day two result on the parallel bars and a combined top five, along with the high bar.

“It was weird because it was getting back to the skills I was doing when I was younger, but it is just part of the (recovery) process,” he said. “Overall, I’m just happy to get back to where I am and be able to compete in all six events again.”

A busy spring ahead includes the provincial championships at the end of March in Surrey and the Canadian Championships in late May.