If there was ever a time when Kiya Johnson’s troubled left Achilles tendon was going to kick, now was the time.
The moment on Saturday when she completed perfection in her routine on the first floor of this carefully managed 2022 gymnastics season. The moment the music she performed ended, replaced by the roar of 13,569 screaming LSU fans rising to their feet. The moment she pounded her feet on the mat with pure delight, and her teammates, each of them knowing full well the pain and sacrifice she endured, assailed her with loving joy.
Johnson’s Achilles would certainly give him misery the next day. And the next. But at that time, he did not have the courage to spoil this moment. This score. Ten points-oh.
And why? Because Johnson, who once suffered a right Achilles tear early in his freshman year of high school, has more guts than any reluctant tendon of his own.
“I felt pain” during my routine, Johnson said. “But that wasn’t my main goal because I was having so much fun and wanted to do well for the team.”
That Johnson is one of the best floor artists in the country is a given. She was ranked No. 1 nationally in 2021 on floor and won the title on floor in the 2021 Southeastern Conference Championship Game, which given the competition is just a step away. below victory at the NCAA level.
But given that his performance to put the icing on the cake in a brilliant 197.975-197.750 victory over Auburn was his first competition on the floor since the NCAA Championships in April, his performance is even more impressive.
“She’s amazing,” coach Jay Clark said. “She can do that. His timing is not going away. She’s amazing like that. She will be fine if her Achilles allows her to.
If his Achilles allows it. The plan was to keep Johnson out of the ground rotation until the Auburn meeting, keep it Friday in Florida (5 p.m., SEC Network) and, hopefully Clark staff, for next Friday’s home meeting. against Alabama. Those three straight meetings will likely determine LSU’s chances of challenging for the SEC regular-season championship, and the Tigers need to call on all of their best gymnasts.
That includes having Johnson, along with second-year Haleigh Bryant, compete as all-around players for No. 5-ranked LSU (3-0, 2-0 SEC) against No. 4 Florida (7-0, 4 -0) and No. 4. 8 Alabama.
Johnson has recovered enough from the Auburn game to be down against the Gators. But Bama?
“I hope so,” she said. “If everything holds up.” After that, she could be grounded again for much of the rest of the regular season to be ready for SEC and NCAA competition.
Kiya Johnson, LSU’s star junior gymnast, first injured her Achilles tendon two years ago during a visit to Gainesville, Fla., chief c…
It was in Florida that Johnson’s Achilles problems began during warm-ups for a meeting two years ago.
“I was doing a jump race,” she said. “I wasn’t even running that fast. I don’t remember the exact feeling, but I remember it hurt and it only got worse. It kind of persisted.
It was Jan. 24, 2020. A month later, the pandemic ended LSU’s season like it did everywhere else in college sports, which at least gave Johnson a chance to rest.
The problem is that no amount of rest allowed his Achilles to return to his pre-injury state. So, that turned Johnson into a part-time ground contender last season.
When she could make the floor, she was brilliant, posting three perfect 10s in 2021, including one in the SEC Championship Meet. But she’s also been sidelined for five regular-season meetings on the ground.
“When I’m not doing gymnastics, I feel great,” Johnson said. “But that first punch (against the ground) or that run down the track brings it back.”
Experience must compensate. Although just weeks away from her 20th birthday, Johnson has been in gymnastics for a long time. She was already established when LSU freshman volunteer coach Courtney McCool Griffeth worked with her eight years ago at Texas Dreams Gymnastics in Dallas. When Griffeth worked with Johnson again, she saw how a now mature young woman allows her experience to help fill in the gaps that relentless training can no longer fill.
“She has great experience and leadership in how she conducts herself and how she runs her business with training, recovery and school,” McCool Griffeth said. “The way she does one thing is the way she does everything. She’s just a great example inside and out.
Griffeth, a 2004 U.S. Olympian and NCAA champion in Georgia, handles floor choreography for LSU. Although she helped Johnson choose new ground music for this season, she didn’t try to do much to change it as a ground performer.
“She’s got a great air awareness,” Griffeth said. “Great awareness of angles and dynamics through her tumbling. If you look she basically jogs through her passes. She uses her technique and is so sharp to know her body, her mind, what she needs and what she needs. which she doesn’t need. I think that’s a huge advantage she has.
“She’s also such a happy athlete. He’s such a happy person. His work ethic is incredible. She makes everyone around her better. She has a lot of fun in what she does. She knows when she likes it, she knows when she doesn’t like it. It’s just a little adjustment and she’ll come back and respond.
Adjustments big and small, Johnson responded to injuries to stay on top of the college gymnastics world.
The gymnastics she does is not the challenge. The challenge is staying well enough to compete when LSU needs it most.
SEC Team Pct. Overall percentage. High season
Florida 4-0 1,000 7-0 1,000 198,250
LSU 2-0 1,000 3-0 1,000 197,975
Auburn 2-1 .667 5-1 .833 197.750
Kentucky 2-1 .667 5-1 .833 197.450
Alabama 1-2 .333 3-3 .500 197.875
Missouri 0-2,000 5-2,714 197,650
Arkansas 0-2,000 2-2,500 197,200
Georgia 0-3 .000 2-4 .333 196.125
Last week’s results
LSU 197.975, Auburn 197.750
Florida 197,775, Missouri 197,650
Alabama 197.875, North Carolina 195.325, West Carolina 194.875
Kentucky 197.450, Georgia 196.125, Illinois 195.650, Central Michigan 195.550
Arkansas 197.050, southeast Missouri 194.150
LSU at Florida, 5 p.m. (SEC Network)
Georgia at Alabama, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Kentucky at Auburn, 7 p.m. (SECNetwork+)
Missouri at Auburn, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)
All Hours CST