FORT WORTH, Texas — It would have been easy for Olivia Trautman to be caught up in her own world.
For the third straight season, Trautman was battling an injury as the OU women’s gymnastics team prepared for its annual pre-season intrasquad tune-up.
But when rookie Danielle Sievers suffered a stress fracture, Trautman made it a point to be there for her teammate no matter what Trautman was going through herself or how new Sievers was to the team.
“She’s always believed in me and she wants the best for everyone on the team,” Sievers said. “She really got me through it, and I’ll be forever grateful to her that she’s here on this team.”
About four months later, the top-ranked Sooners are gearing up for the NCAA Championships, which begin Thursday at Dickies Arena, and Trautman is one of the main reasons OU has a shot at winning its fourth national title since. 2016.
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The Sooners face off in the first semi-final, which begins at noon and will be televised on ESPN2. OU will face Alabama, Minnesota and Utah in this semi-final. Auburn, Florida, Michigan and Missouri will face off Thursday night in the second semifinal. The top two teams from each semifinal will advance to Saturday’s championship round.
Sievers is far from the only one aided by Trautman.
Trautman has so much experience working through injuries and returning to competition at a high level that she has served as a mentor to her teammates who have suffered injuries, whether by example or with her words.
“A lot of our other athletes who are maybe sidelined, they can see the attitude she has,” Sooners coach KJ Kindler said. “I think it inspires them to take a positive turn on what’s going on with themselves, because a lot of times it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to be negative about these things. It’s easy to throw in the towel and just say, “Well, I’ll move on to next year, next year, next year”.
“But the thing is with Olivia, she never does that. So she’s a great example for the rest of our team. Even if she’s left out, her goal is tomorrow. “I’ll be better, tomorrow that will get better.” She has a plan.
It hasn’t always been easy for Trautman to maintain this attitude.
She admits she was unsure of her recovery from knee discomfort that began when she returned to competition in floor exercise last post-season. The pain persisted throughout daily activities and eventually required surgery in December.
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“It kinda hurts to do everything — like climbing stairs, just basic living beings,” Trautman said. “So honestly I went into the surgery knowing that gymnastics might never be in the picture again because at the end of the day I have the rest of my life to live and be able to run and to do all of this painlessly was the end goal.
When she started working out on UO’s underwater treadmill, she quickly realized that the surgically repaired knee wasn’t sore the next day.
From there, she quickly progressed.
She returned to beam on February 19 with a 9.900.
It took him almost a month longer to start competing in the jump.
After a 9.875 in her first meet on March 11 at Arizona State, she narrowly missed what would have been her fourth career perfect 10 on vault with a 9.975 eight days later at the Big 12 championships.
She earned another 9.975 on vault in the regional final, in addition to a 9.950 on beam.
“I’ve been feeling my best since the start of the season,” Trautman said. “I am delighted to be there.”
Trautman will compete in both events in Fort Worth.
She might even make her debut in the uneven bars lineup.
This event was the strongest for the Sooners this season. OU’s depth in that event helped Trautman not have to rush his way back there, which was important because his landing off the bars puts more stress on his injured knee than his jump landing.
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“For the last two years we didn’t have a lot of depth on the bars, so even if people weren’t ready, we had to be thrown in there to go,” Trautman said. “So just having this competitive competition in, honestly, all of the events has really helped our team grow and push each other to achieve the best that we can.”
There will be no return to the ground this season, however.
Trautman plans to take advantage of the NCAA’s COVID waiver and return for a fifth season next year, and plans to bring her back to all-around.
But first, she hopes to help the Sooners win what would be her second national championship.
If OU is able to accomplish this feat, Trautman will be a huge part of it – not only with her own individual performance, but also that of her teammates.
“We always say we go to Olivia’s University because she’s just unreal,” Danae Fletcher said. “Everything she does is so easy. I definitely admire her, because we all want to be like her.
When: Noon Thursday, Saturday
Or: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, TX
TV: ESPN2 (Thursday), ABC (Saturday)