Bronco gymnast’s resilience earns nomination for nationwide award | WMU Information


Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A rising star with the gymnastics world at her fingertips, Payton Murphy’s embellished collegiate gymnastics profession almost ended earlier than it took off. The standout Western Michigan College student-athlete suffered a extreme neck fracture simply days after her first meet as a Bronco.

As an alternative of being overcome by concern, her ardour for the game fueled a restoration that was nothing wanting miraculous, catapulting her again onto the mat. Higher than ever only a 12 months later, she earned a spot as one in all three finalists for the 2022 Faculty Girls’s Sports activities Awards’ (CWSA) Honda Inspiration Award.

“There have been many sturdy nominations for the 2022 Inspiration Award, and every had a really inspiring story,” says Judy Candy, CWSA board member and chair of the Inspiration Award committee. “The three finalists demonstrated power, resiliency, dedication and success in overcoming important well being challenges and ongoing adversities.”

Ultimately, one other finalist was chosen because the Inspiration Award winner, however Murphy says the title is not what’s vital—it is the chance to assist others.

“I am seeking to encourage gymnasts—greater than gymnasts, another athletes—who undergo an harm inside their sport and have to return again and take care of the concern they may have … to get by means of it and be higher than they have been earlier than,” she says.


An X-ray exhibits the extreme fracture in Murphy’s neck.

Murphy, the 2021 Mid-American Convention (MAC) Gymnast of the Yr, remembers the second her profession flashed earlier than her eyes. It was January 2020, simply two days after she accomplished her first collegiate gymnastics meet at Western the place she’d gained the all-around title and helped the Broncos beat Michigan State.

“I used to be doing a dismount; it was my final flip. I bear in mind telling my coach I wasn’t going to do anymore, and I let go a little bit bit too early,” she says. “I landed on the again of my neck … and heard a crunch.”

Paramedics arrived and rushed her to the hospital. Within the flurry of scans and X-rays, a dialog with a medical pupil is burned into her thoughts.

“He was behind me stabilizing my head, and he was asking me questions on gymnastics, making an attempt to calm me down,” she says. He requested her how lengthy she’d been doing gymnastics—she began when she was 5—and she or he instructed him about her successful rating at her first meet at Western. “He mentioned, ‘Oh, you should be fairly good.’ And I simply bear in mind breaking down much more as a result of I assumed, ‘I do not know what is going on to occur now.'”

Murphy, a nursing main, says the terminology and processes she’d begun to study in courses at Western helped calm her nerves a bit, as she had a greater understanding of the assessments she was present process and the care she obtained.


Bolstered by the help of her teammates, coaches, trainers and household, Murphy resolved to return to the health club. However first, she headed dwelling to Carol Stream, Illinois, for just a few weeks to let her physique heal.

“I needed to sleep upright in a recliner for most likely two weeks, then I graduated to a wedge I might placed on my mattress. I needed to bathe with my neck brace on,” Murphy says, laughing concerning the child-sized brace she was given as a result of the grownup brace was too massive. As soon as she felt comfy strolling round, she was capable of be part of her workforce at a meet in Northern Illinois. Then, she headed again to campus.

Murphy wore a neck brace for a number of months as she recovered.

“I simply needed to watch the workforce from the sidelines at apply and on the meets, cheer them on,” she says. “Throughout these three months (of the season I could not take part in), I used to be seeing women win issues that I wished to win and seeing women work with the workforce I wished to work with. So I feel it was all increase throughout these three months of competitors, and I simply exploded after I bought my neck brace off and I used to be capable of truly apply.”

Murphy practiced at her dwelling health club in Illinois within the low season, which allowed her to deal with expertise at her personal tempo.

“I’d at all times ship (my workforce) movies, and so they have been superior with their responses,” she remembers. “The coaches and the ladies have been all celebrating, and it simply made me really feel actually good that I used to be doing the fitting factor by coming again.”

One factor that did not come again when Murphy lastly bought the possibility to compete with the Broncos once more in 2021? Her ill-fated dismount.

“After I got here again to Western, I discovered a brand new dismount as a result of I wasn’t doing that one once more,” she says. “I boxed that previous dismount up and mentioned, ‘That was unhealthy, however the remainder of the bars is not so scary.’ I simply needed to take it someday at a time … and be affected person.”


Murphy had a banner 12 months in 2021, competing in 10 meets and incomes season-high scores in vault, beam, flooring and all-around, which additionally earned her the title of 2021 MAC Gymnast of the Yr. She achieved all of that whereas persevering with her pursuit of a bachelor’s diploma in nursing—one thing she says she would not have been capable of do elsewhere.

“A variety of colleges after I was getting recruited instructed me I could not do nursing if I wished to do gymnastics,” she says. The flexibility to thrive in each her passions is what helped her select Western. “If I’ve to go to a medical or one thing, (my coaches and trainers) will are available just a few hours after the workforce apply simply with me, so that they work round my schedule properly. It is a little bit demanding making an attempt to go from seven-hour clinicals within the morning after which need to go to a three-hour apply … however I feel it is all price it.”

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Gymnastics has been a life-long love for Murphy, pictured right here training as a baby.


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