OU women's gymnast Natasha Kelley announces her retirement from the sport.
Jan. 18, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - University of Oklahoma women's gymnast Natasha Kelley, a 2011 All-American and four-time All-Big 12 honoree, announced her retirement from the sport Wednesday.
Kelley tore the Achilles tendon in her right foot during preseason training, her fourth major injury in the last five years, and after careful consideration decided to retire from gymnastics.
"My time here at the University of Oklahoma has been a wonderful experience," Kelley said. "I have made many lifelong friendships and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches in the NCAA. There is no other university program that I could imagine being associated with and that is why I chose OU."
With just two years of competition with the Sooners, Kelley has made her mark on the history of the program. Kelley helped OU to back-to-back top three finishes at the NCAA Super Six in 2010 and 2011, two NCAA Regional titles and a Big 12 Championship.
"Tasha has come back from three potentially career-ending injuries already. It takes a tremendous person to push through heartbreak that many times to rise again as a National Contender," OU head coach K.J. Kindler said. "We are so proud that Natasha and her family chose OU and we will forever respect the lasting impression she has had on our program."
Kelley will continue to be with the team during home meets and will be honored as part of the 2012 senior class against Alabama during Senior Night on March 2 at 7 p.m., at the Lloyd Noble Center.
"Gymnastics was my life and will always be close to my heart," Kelley added. "I have fulfilled my dreams right here and regret that I will miss competing my senior year due to injuries. I am very thankful for everything my coaches, teammates, and trainer have done for me. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for them."
Kelley came to OU as arguably one of the program's most decorated recruits. The Katy, Texas, native was a four-time U.S. National Team member, a silver medalist at the 2006 World Championships and was the 2006 U.S. Junior National Champion.
"We knew when she committed to OU that she would be a difference maker for our program," Kindler said. "We didn't know that her impact would be through a demonstration of perseverance. She has taught herself, her teammates and all those who have worked with her what it means to love something so greatly you will do anything to continue."
During the summer of 2008, Kelley had a titanium rod placed in her tibia after suffering a stress fracture in her leg. Four months later, Kelley tore the Achilles tendon in her left foot during preseason training in the fall of 2008 and was forced to miss her freshman year of competition.
After taking a medical redshirt to recover from those injuries, Kelley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in December of 2009. With just one month before her redshirt-freshman season, Kelley made the decision to delay surgery and competed without an ACL in her right knee during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
In 2011, Kelley finished in fourth place at the 2011 NCAA Individual Event Finals on beam, earned first team All-America honors on beam and second-team honors on bars.
In 2010, Kelley was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was the 2011 Big 12 Champion on beam along with teammate Megan Ferguson. Kelley was also a four-time All-Big 12 honoree (2011 - bars and beam, 2010 - vault and bars).
In her two years competing, Kelley won a total of 17 individual event titles, including her Big 12 Championship on beam and a NCAA Regional championship on bars in 2011.
Kelley will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in communications and will pursue a master's degree in elementary education beginning this fall.
"I look forward to watching Natasha's next goal of becoming a teacher come to fruition" Kindler said. "If she pours as much soul into her profession as she has into gymnastics, she will be the most requested teacher at school."