Stewartville gymnast Emilee Otto sure wishes it weren’t the case.
But thanks to her triplet brother Nick, her path was paved, blow softened.
Two years ago she suffered the same injury that Nick has now suffered three times, a torn ACL.
Nick went first, as an eighth-grader. Then he did it again almost simultaneously with Emilee two winters ago. And he still wasn’t done. Nick tore his one more time this past fall while playing football for Stewartville, ending his sports career.
But there’s been one aspect concerning Nick and athletics that has never been severed. In fact, it’s been built as a result of those hard knocks.
“I’ve just been passing knowledge down to Emilee, after everything that I’ve been through,” Nick said.
When Emilee came down awkwardly while doing a floor routine as a freshman, she a heard pop.
That sound, she’d learned from Nick, could only mean one thing. She’d torn her ACL.
“I just stayed on the floor and waved over to my coaches to come get me,” Emilee said.
Emilee had also learned something else from paying attention to Nick. It was that there was only one way to successfully deal with an injury that severe. It was to get busy rehabbing, and in their case, for the two of them to do it together.
So, off they went, two-thirds of the Otto triplet combination (Olivia the other) making steady trips to the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center in Rochester, together rehabbing their respective knees the winter of their freshman year.
Emilee looks back at that grinding stretch as awful, but also with waves of indebtedness. Nick’s experience in ACL rehabilitation combined with his caring for his sister made all the difference.
Because back then, the scene so often played out the same way. It was Nick dragging Emilee to the car in order to get her to rehab. Emilee says that Nick is not only a caring guy but a tough one — tougher than she is. He never fought going.
“Sometimes I’d get discouraged and didn’t want to keep doing it,” Emilee said. “But Nick pushed me with the physical therapy. He was really supportive and walked me through everything that would happen.”
What’s happened since is that Emilee, also a soccer player and track athlete, has gradually healed.
She’s now back, completely. And all the credit goes to her — and Nick.
“Emilee has always been a hard worker,” Stewartville gymnastics coach Courtney Severson said. “But after the injury, it was hard. She had to ease herself back. She had to start from square one. She had to stick with the basics at the beginning, with cartwheels, forward rolls, roundoffs. She was always in the background doing something, conditioning on the side.
“Her brother was a good example for her. That allowed her to know how long the road would be.”
Judging by her performances early this gymnastics season, Severson says Emilee’s long path to recovery is finally complete.
Emilee thought she was actually pretty close to full strength last spring, when she competed in the pole vault for the first time. She sure enjoyed that, the daredevil side of her being allowed to come out again.
She also safely made it through soccer season this past fall, setting herself up for her happiest stretch of months in her school year, gymnastics season, a sport she’s participated in since gindergarden.
Severson calls Emilee, also a 4.0 (GPA) student, one of the top gymnasts she’s had at Stewartville, with her top event the vault, and floor exercise a close second. Emilee’s goal is to get a score of 9.0 on the vault. She also gives herself an outside chance of reaching the state meet this season, though admits that the competition in Section One is daunting.
As for Nick, he’s watching her every move and doing it with satisfaction and pride. He helped get her to this point and he knows it.
“She’s bounced back well and done it with hard work,” he said. “It shows.”