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Dani Dessaints did not get a lot of competition time during her first two seasons as an Oregon State gymnast.

Dessaints was limited by a knee injury as a freshman and she missed all but the first meet last year due to a hurt shoulder.

The injury occurred in practice and Dessaints knew immediately that she was going to be sidelined for the season.

"I instantly knew that I probably wasn't coming back for season just because I had surgery previously on this shoulder and then doing what I did and I knew that without another surgery on it I wasn't going to be able to do gymnastics again," Dessaints said. "So I figured just get it done, get it over with and be ready for next season."

After starting the rehabilitation process, Dessaints knew she faced a potentially rough time as she watched her teammates practice and compete.

As a veteran of nine major injuries, she knew how to handle the mental approach.

"It's all a mental game that we have to play," Dessaints said. "This sport is a mental game, so when the days just seem like they just prolong and it doesn't seem like anything's getting better, we have to remind ourselves that it just takes time. It's all about the time, it's all about the timing and everything happens for a reason."

As long as she was going to spend her time as a spectator, Dessaints figured she could impact the team in other ways.

She decided that her role should be a sounding board for her teammates, someone they could trust to talk to about problems or tough times.

Sophomore McKenna Singley said she benefited greatly last season from Dessaints' presence.

Singley calls Dessaints "Momma Bear" because she was there to help her through the freshman blues.

"She definitely made me realize I wasn't the only one going through it. She went through it. Many people go through freshman year, it gets hard, everything's new. She talked to me. She would make me a home cooked dinner if I needed it. Be there no matter what," Singley said.

"She got me through some really hard times last year and continues to this year, too. Obviously, it hasn't been the easiest year through a lot of things and she's been by my side through everything. It doesn't matter what time it is, she will be there if I text (or) call her. It's been so much help. There's not even words to describe how grateful I am for her."

It was a good lesson for Dessaints, who realized the level of impact she could have on her teammates both in and out of the gym.

After going through so many injuries, she had a new way of looking at those situations.

"So I just think that this time I actually got a different perspective of how much I could impact someone without being on the floor," Dessaints said. "And so hearing Kenna say you're a big impact in my life, you helped me a lot, just knowing that I could do that not doing gymnastics and now that I am doing gymnastics and how many other people I can inspire, no matter the days that I hurt, no matter the days that are just bad, I just remember that there's always someone looking up to me."

Meanwhile, the rehab had gone well and Dessaints' shoulder was ready to go for this season.

Coach Tanya Chaplin and the staff decided to keep Dessaints on two events to avoid further injury.

"Our medical staff has done a great job with her getting her back to where she has that strength and we decided just to focus on vault and beam and not put her shoulders through that extra stress on bars or her hips and other body parts on floor," Chaplin said. "So we were just trying to focus on those two events."

It wasn't easy for an all-arounder to be satisfied with two out of four events, but Dessaints realized it was a smart decision.

It has showed this season. Dessaints is coming off a career-high 9.950 on vault at Stanford and has two 9.875s and three 9.825s on the event.

Her scores have been even more consistent on beam. She landed a career-best 9.900 at home against Northern Illinois and Seattle Pacific, has three 9.875s, three 9.850s and a 9.825.

"This year is definitely a little magical for me because I haven't had a season like this since my junior year of high school," she said. "So this is really exciting that I'm making it through and doing really well with it."


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