ST. JOHN | The sight of it was more wrenching than the pain itself.
"I think I was in shock," Hayley Butcher said about when she dislocated her left knee while preparing for a trampoline competition last summer.
"From what I remember, I came down just as the mat was put under me," Butcher said of the cushion placed under trampoliners to soften the final bounce of a workout routine. "It may have swept my ankle to make me land funny."
He leg ended up being bent grotesquely inward at the joint. For the St. John 20-year-old, who at that point had serious dreams about making the 2012 Olympics, it all seemed over.
"I didn't think there was any way I could back from that," said Butcher, who also sustained severe ligament damage and needed re-constructive surgery.
But come back she did. At the Elite Challenge held March 30-April 1 in Tulsa, Okla., Butcher placed fourth overall -- missing third by two-hundreds of a point -- in the Senior Elite division.
For Senior Elite trampoliners, the Elite Challenge is the first of three stops that serve as Olympic trials. Only one woman's spot, plus an alternate, will be selected.
"I truly think I can move up and make it," said Butcher of the next two qualifiers, which are the Stars and Stripes Cup in Cleveland (May 10-15) and the Rhythmic and Trampoline Championships in San Jose, Calif. (June 26-28).
"If I could come back from this," Butcher said in reference to the straight verticle scar that bisects her knee, "I know I could do even better."
Other Midwest athletes competing in Tulsa included Crete 8-year-old Mia Burns, who won four gold medals -- trampoline, syncro trampoline, double-mini trampoline and tumbling -- in Level 9.
"She's a very good student," said Midwest coach and Belarus native Slava Marozau, who was a world class trampoliner in his day. "She's very talented, and people in the country have taken notice of her."
Eric Correa, 11, of Dyer, took second place in the trampoline and double-mini in Level 10 competition; and Suzie Frankovich, 13, of Dyer, placed first in syncro, third in double-mini and tumbling, and fourth in trampoline in Level 9 competition.
During an April 6 practice at Midwest, a seminal moment occured for Frankovich when she successfully achieved her first double flip.
"You're always doing them in your mind until you finally do one physically," said Midwest coach Oleg Fedosov, a former world class trampoliner himself. "Then it becomes natural and you don't think about it as much."
Correa remembers his first double flip.
"It felt amazing," said Correa, who now incorporates a variety of double flips in his routine. "You gain so much confidence in your ability after your first one."