Madison Kocian does not like to wait.
“I’m typically an impatient person,” the sophomore said.
Kocian had shoulder surgery in August. The doctors told her to take it easy with her recovery. Even UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field wasn’t sure how much Kocian would be able to contribute this season, especially on the uneven bars – the event that places the most stress on the shoulders.
“When she said she wanted to be competing on three events in six months, we were like, ‘OK,’” Kondos Field said.
At the NCAA regional meet Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Kocian completed three events – balance beam, floor exercise and uneven bars.
She made her season debut on balance beam and floor exercise long before the postseason began, but Saturday was her first competitive bars routine since 2017’s NCAA Super Six.
And it wasn’t perfect. Kocian completed her elements in a competent manner and wobbled on one of the handstands. The judges gave her a 9.875.
The routine received positive reviews from her coach.
“(After a long layoff), for her to come in and hit such a great bar routine is amazing,” Kondos Field said.
If the doctors had their way, Kocian wouldn’t have been competing in three events, but she refused to stick to their timeline. She had one goal for the season – to contribute to three events. And she stuck to it.
As a result, she recovered weeks ahead of the original schedule.
“She was determined to get back on three events. She’s got an amazing mind,” Kondos Field said. “The doctor had one plan and she had her plan. We know she’s about five, six weeks ahead of schedule.”
After the meet, Kocian admitted to struggling down the home stretch of her recovery, trying to get back into top form on the event in which she won a world championship and an Olympic silver medal.
“It’s been a little bit of a rough comeback on bars the last couple weeks,” Kocian said.
Kocian’s return solidifies the uneven bars lineup for the Bruins, a group that is strong at the top with sophomore Kyla Ross and redshirt senior Peng-Peng Lee, and inconsistent at the bottom half. That has led to a wide range in scores, a high of 49.625 and a low of 49.150.
Of course, Kocian’s skill set goes beyond the uneven bars. She scored a 9.825 on Saturday on the balance beam and a 9.850 on floor exercise to go with her 9.875 bars routine.
She provides the team with a consistent presence on her three events heading into the national semifinal and Super Six in about 10 days.