Promising teen gymnast paralyzed while practicing routine - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Promising teen gymnast paralyzed while practicing routine

(WMC-TV) – A Mid-South gymnast prepared to leave for rehab Thursday after a fall from the bars left her paralyzed.

All the gymnasts and staff at River City Gymnastics wore "Team Avery" shirts in honor of one of their best, 13-year-old Avery Downing, who injured her spinal cord while doing her routine on the uneven bars.

Downing's teammates will now perform the routine in her honor.  An accident last Tuesday left Downing paralyzed from the waist down.

"It was just a freak accident on a skill she has been doing forever," said Gus Vandervoort, owner of River City Gymnastics.

Downing's coach had always predicted she would one day get a full scholarship as a college athlete.  The gym was packed when she was doing her beam routine.  As soon as she fell, her coach and friends said they knew it was bad.

"It was scary because you could just tell that she was in a lot of pain," said teammate McKenzie Ward.

"We are really sticking together, selling the t-shirts, wearing the t-shirts, as much support as we can for her," said teammate Juliana Vigueras.

Since she was only four years old, Downing has spent three hours a day, five days a week at the gym.  Her gym family has created Team Avery to raise money for what insurance will not cover.

They will also help her family take time off work to be with her.  Thursday, Downing's coach got news by phone that her family's house was burglarized while they were at the hospital.

Friends said as bad as it is now, they believe Downing will walk again.  Years ago, she lost all of her hair because of the condition Alopecia Universalis.  It was not supposed to grow back, but it did.

The routine Downing was injured while performing was the same one she won first place during a competition earlier this month.  Friday, Downing will be transferred to a hospital in Atlanta that specializes in spinal cord injuries.

You can donate to Team Avery at any Regions Bank or SunTrust Bank.  To visit the Team Avery Facebook page, click here.

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