by Tracy Awino

courtesy of Megan Walker

source: GymShark Photography

 
 
 

           A broken heart.

           

           No other known cure has been found for it other than time. But time is a relative man made concept so technically a broken heart may take a lifetime to heal. Several songs, movies, novels, and poems have been written in the name of a broken heart. The greatest of mankind have suffered a broken heart. To simply put it, no one is born immune to a broken heart.

         

          However, there are many ways to suffer one and for Megan Walker her passion for a sport broke her heart and now she must learn how to move on.

       

          Standing at 5 foot 3, Walker has been a force to be reckoned with for the majority of her life. Describing herself as a high anxiety person, Walker is undoubtedly a woman who recognizably carries herself with unwavering resolve of who she is which was admittedly nerve-racking upon encountering her. Walker emphasized that she was a direct person which was unfortunately in discord with her current location.

 

         Southern hospitality, they call it. Auburn, Alabama was no exception.

          

          This concept was one that would restrict her to address issues as they were but she wasn’t going to  change who she was to mold herself into what she was expected to be. Instead she explained herself and why she needed to be direct. She stood her ground and it was appreciated because often times an attempt at niceness is often at the expense of the truth. So she was direct and just as athletes are always required to face their challenges head on, she did exactly that.

 “I have often thought of it like that. As the very first love, my first relationship that lasted 20 years and then gymnastics and I had a very heart-wrenching break up.” 

          A decorated star athlete are not the only things that Walker is known for. She has been described as compassionate, strong, and driven by those closest to her. But despite all of this, Walker is still mending the pieces of a broken heart.              

       Through the ages there have been many ways to describe a first love but one of the most famous ways has been that “the first cut is the deepest.” Walker can attest to this because she has known love, she has lost it, and has had to learn to love again.

        Her love being gymnastics.

        “I have often thought of it like that. As the very first love, my first relationship that lasted 20 years and then gymnastics and I had a very heart-wrenching break up,” said Walker.

       However, her dedication came at a price.

       Walker’s mother, Tammy Patton, said, “She sacrificed school dances and vacations with her father and would stay behind with mum and practice.” Patton emphasized that it was not because Walker couldn’t go on these vacations but rather she chose to not go in order to get herself prepared for competitions.

     Walker recalls a time when she was about 10-years-old and she was learning to perfect a skill and how much frustration accompanied that period.

      “I never wanted to stop because at that point my mum had to drag me out of the gym because I would keep working until my wrists would be bleeding,” she said.

        Her sister, Ashley Walker, also noted that during their formative years, she and Megan Walker weren’t that close because of how much time gymnastics took. However, Ashley Walker said that things improved much later in life.

        “It wasn’t until middle school and high school that Meg and I really started connecting with each other,” she said. “Since gymnastics was such a big part of her life, it was naturally part of our lives too.”

            

Megan Walker. Courtesy of Megan Walker

Her drive and competitive nature also seeped into other aspects of her life as well. Her fiancé, Andrew Thigpen, said, “She is going to go all out honestly. In gymnastics, in school, I mean sometimes she gets a little too competitive at times but overall her work ethic is second to none.”​

Megan Walker and fiance, Andrew Thigpen. Courtesy of Megan Walker

         Nevertheless, Megan Walker said that after her junior year gymnastics season, things got a little rough and even though she has never felt like giving up gymnastics, that was the only time she felt close to done.

        “We had been having a good season, but that was the year when Bri Guy suffered a major injury. In NCAA gymnastics, ateam's ability and performance is mostly perception-based," she said. "Bri was more or less the face of the team so when she went down many people assumed we weren't goood anymore, and that was frustrating for us all."

        She said that after her teammate’s injury, other injuries continued to pile up and even at the meets, other mistakes, such as falling during routines, kept happening.  After that season, Walker recalls feeling weighed down and even after their coach mandated that the team take a five week break without practicing gymnastics, which she had never done before, it still took a while to get back into the flow of things.  

Megan Walker (holding phone) with her teammates. Courtesy of Megan Walker

        Needless to say Megan Walker continued to work tirelessly in gymnastics all through her college career while also trying to maintain a high grade-point-average. “I took 17 hours every semester with gymnastics that’s why I was able to graduate in three years,” she said.

         She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in fitness, conditioning, and performance and is currently pursuing a second undergraduate degree in marketing.

She was first introduced to gymnastics at the age of two. At the age of eight, Walker had already been making career goals for herself. She vowed to be a level 10 gymnast, the highest level for the USA Gymnastics junior Olympics program, by the age of 10 and she did. By the age of 14, Walker was already coaching gymnastics and training about 7 hours a day, and approximately 27 hours a week. There was no stopping her and her vision.

Megan Walker on graduating with her first degree. Courtesy of Megan Walker

 

      However despite being successful in her academic and athletic concentrations she still felt as though aside from gymnastics she wasn’t well equipped to do anything else.

      “I don’t have any other passion. People say I should go into coaching because of my passion for gymnastics but that passion isn't as strong for coaching, currently, as it as for actually performing and competing,” she said.

      Megan Walker said it would be especially difficult to become a coach because she still wants to be able to do everything she'd be teaching even though it is not feasible anymore.

      “I dedicated almost 20 years to the sport and I was good at it after a lot of hard work, but school always came fairly easily,” she said. " I was in the National Honor Society in high school and never felt overwhelmingly challenged."

      She said she wishes she had felt more challenged because that may have heped her figure out where her true strengths were and are in terms of a future and a career

      Megan Walker mentioned that she had chosen a degree in Fitness because at the time she believed that she would go into coaching but little did she know that the pain of losing gymnastics would be too much to bear.

      Ashley Walker said even though Megan Walker spent most of her time in gymnastics she still had qualities that could have been applied in other areas.

      “She’s a giver. She likes helping people less fortunate than herself and honestly just that, just caring and helping is probably one of the greatest things a person can do,” Ashley Walker said.

      Her sister isn’t the only one that believes Megan Walker is destined for greater things beyond gymnastics.

      “What’s good for her is that she’s going to learn that she can be successful at stuff beyond gymnastics,” Thigpen said. “Her caring for people and her commitment to something, and that can go a long way in whatever she decides to do, be it helping people and being in media, like she does now, and there are a lot of things out there that she can use her strength for beyond gymnastics.”

      Thigpen noted that Megan Walker wants more for herself besides just being known as a plain Jane.

      “She is not content with mediocrity in her life and she wants more than that,” he said.

     As she continues to move on and figure out her life beyond her first relationship, her mother also reflects on what that last performance was for her and her daughter.

     “We were both heading into it with mixed emotions,” Patton said.       “It’s been a whole life of her doing gymnastics, a whole life of me re-arranging my schedule with my other kids and work to get her everywhere and here is a culmination of all we had done and I think we both enjoyed every moment of it.”

     

 

 

 

Megan Walker is now on the next phase of her life, and that is moving on from her first love. She is now setting her eyes on what her life will bring next and even though she said goodbye to practicing gymnastics competitively she is still involved in other aspects of the sport such as announcing for a segment for the SEC Network plus.

      She loved, she lost and has truly learned how to love again.

 

Megan Walker hugging a teammate. Courtesy of Megan Walker