Three years ago, Brandon MacDonald did not know if he would ever walk again, let alone compete in the sport he loved.
Now he is getting set to represent Team BC next week at the Western Canadian gymnastics championships, and then next month, at the Canadian gymnastics championships.
None of this seemed possible a few years back for the now 18-year-old.
Imagine being a fit and active teenager when all of a sudden, you are sitting on a couch and you lose feeling in your leg.
This is what MacDonald faced three years ago.
“The first thing I am thinking was, ‘am I paralyzed? Am I ever going to do gym(nastics) again?’” he said.
MacDonald was scared, not knowing what was happening.
An MRI showed that MacDonald had two bulging discs in his back, which he had apparently suffered a couple of years earlier.
“I flinched midair and landed on my back (and) I never took care of my injury,” he explained.
Up until that point, MacDonald had been an elite-level gymnast.
MacDonald took up the sport when he was six years old, after attending a recreational class with Langley Gymnastics Foundation.
Up until then, he had tried a bunch of different sports, but none appealed to the youngster.
And now, with his back issues, the sport was taken away from him.
After visiting a handful of doctors and physiotherapists, he began his treatment with the BC Back Clinic in Surrey.
He underwent two months of spinal decompression and then two months of active rehab, strengthening the core in his back to protect the bulging discs. MacDonald was forced to stand or kneel, whether at school or home, to protect his back.
MacDonald contemplated quitting the sport, wondering what his future held if he was already having back issues at the young age of 16.
Kris Krunick, his long-time coach at LGF, convinced MacDonald to keep at it.
That faith was rewarded when MacDonald returned to competition the following year, but during one of the competitions, MacDonald suffered a broken collarbone.
“I remember I actually broke down crying, thinking maybe this is it, this is my last year because I can’t seem to stay healthy,” he said.
“(But) I knew in all my years of gymnastics, this was not the way I wanted to go out.
“I wanted to end my career with a bang and to push myself as far as I could go and actually make something of myself.”
Fully healthy, MacDonald — now a first-year student at the University of the Fraser Valley — is on top of his game.
He is one of 17 gymnasts from Langley competing next week (April 27-29) in Brandon, Man. for the Western Canadian championships and he will compete in the national open division.
MacDonald will also compete next month (May 23-28) in Montreal at nationals and that will be his first time competing on the national stage.
And if things go right, MacDonald could compete internationally down the road, Krunick feels.
“I always knew, long term, that Brandon could go far in the sport and you are seeing that potential now,” the coach said.
“He is really physically strong and has lots of natural talent.”
MacDonald credited his coaches and family for helping convince him to keep at it.
“I am thankful they helped show me that it is never over until I say it is over,” he said.
Seventeen athletes from Langley will compete for Team BC at next week’s Western Canadian gymnastics championships, which run April 27-29 in Brandon, Man.
The athletes are from the Langley Gymnastics Foundation and Flip City Gymnastics, and they will be joined by four LGF coaches and one coach from Flip City.
On the men’s side, Nicolas Cruz is competing in the provincial level 5 while Tyler Welch, Victor Blaine and Brandon MacDonald are in the national open division.
Blake Morfitt and Cameron Johnston (elite 3), Trevor Ma and Ryder Croome (elite 4) and Oliver Eisele and Dylan Hehr (provincial 4) are also on Team BC.
Kris Krunick and Norihiko Hori are the coaches.
Team BC’s women’s side features Paula Urquidi (JO 10 2001+), Cathy Zhong, Emilie Hong and Kennedy Duke (JO 10 02-05), Sage Bishop-Beaurone and Jennifer Hung (JO 9 (2003+) and Haleigh Cook (JO 8).
The coaches are Dumitru Avarvarei, Liudmila Lobaznyuk and Alana Jensen.
Jensen and Jennifer Hung are both from Flip City while the rest of the athletes and coaches are from LGF.