Paralyzed Gymnast Fulfills Lifelong Dream

By: Malorie Maddox, M.H. Denker Email
By: Malorie Maddox, M.H. Denker Email

Gina Giaffoglione grew up in her dad, Gary's, gym. The two have been tumbling together since she was just a baby.

Gina says, "I love it. I can't get away from it."

Her passion comes from her dad, Gary. It's easy to see what tumbling has meant to him. He lines the wall of his gym with memories. There are pictures when Gina was little, pictures of gymnasts he has taught over the years, and even pictures of Gary tumbling in High School.

But after 23 years...

"I think I want to retire. It's time for me to move on," said Gary.


Gina Handstand

Gina had always planned to take over her dad's gym, but six years ago...

"The accident occurred. And that changed a few things," said Gary.

"When I was ejected, that's when my back broke and I was paralyzed from the waist down," said Gina.

Gina got into a car with someone who had been drinking. That car crash changed her family's life forever.

"We don't know why all of this happened. We don't know why she was saved in that accident, but there was a reason for it," said Gary.

That reason is now very clear.

Gina didn't stay out of the gym, instead turning her struggles into great feats of strength. Despite the fact she is paralyzed from the waist down, you can't keep her off the mat. And her students trust her!

"I think a lot of people in my position feel alone, just because we are different...but we're not. I'm just shorter and I get better parking," laughs Gina.


Group Photo

Gina didn't let her injury keep her from graduating from Wayne State College. She ran her own gym for years, but recently she felt the call to come home. She returned to her dad's studio in Glenwood, Iowa.

We asked them how many students they have taught over the years? Too many to keep track of.

Gina and her dad have one strict rule when it comes to their gym.

"You can see there are signs with "I can't" crossed out all over. You can't say any of that stuff here!" said Gina.

A lesson passed down from a father...who couldn't be more proud of his little girl!

"Her presence in the gym is now bigger than it's ever been before. Her spirit, her love for the kids. The tumblers don't see the chair at all, they see Gina!" said Gary.

Gina shares her story in hopes it will help one other student out there realize...it only takes one bad decision to change your life forever. Wearing your seat belt could save your life.

As far as her future plans, she is getting married in September. She said her dad was the matchmaker.


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