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Kiya Johnson’s Triumphant Return

After battling back from a torn Achilles tendon, the LSU gymnast is shining as a fifth-year senior.

Kiya Johnson competes in the floor event.
Kiya Johnson during her floor routine, courtesy of The Advocate.

Talented all-around gymnast Kiya Johnson joined the LSU Tigers in 2020. Since her arrival, she has played a key role in her team's success. During her freshman season, she was crowned SEC Freshman of the Year and Region 1 Gymnast of the Year. As a sophomore, Johnson’s talents only progressed. She finished the season with a perfect 10 in her floor routine, making her the 2021 SEC Floor Champion. Over the course of her junior year, Johnson scored two perfect 10s in meets against Auburn and Alabama, leading her team to victory in both. In addition, she earned her ninth first-team honor at the NCAA Semifinal II championship, giving her the 10th-most honors in LSU gymnastics history. 

Johnson’s senior season was off to a great start. In her first two meets, she posted commendable scores in all her events: 9.875 on vault, 9.900 on bars, 9.850 on beam, and 9.900 on floor. But her season took an unexpected turn when she tore her left Achilles tendon during her floor routine in a meet against Kentucky. LSU suffered a huge blow in losing Johnson, one of their leading gymnasts — the Tigers had relied on her impeccable performances to secure a spot at nationals and increase their chances of winning the SEC title.

Coming back from an injury is not just a matter of physical rehab. Many athletes’ biggest battle on the road to recovery is overcoming mental challenges. Johnson shared in an interview with Tiger TV that not being able to compete with her team was a difficult and different process. However, she shifted her focus to the positives, realizing she could assist the team in ways that didn’t involve competing.

Fast forward to Johnson’s debut as a fifth-year senior after returning from injury: she scored a 9.95 on beam, just below a perfect 10. Her confidence continues to grow with each meet, she said. Once again, Johnson is proving to be a crucial part of LSU’s exceptional gymnastics program. 

On Jan. 19, the LSU Tigers met the Kentucky Wildcats again, this time in LSU territory. As if it was fate, Johnson scored a perfect 10 in her floor routine, securing LSU’s victory as the last gymnast in the lineup. The Tigers did an outstanding job in that meet, earning one more perfect 10 in addition to Johnson’s and a total score of 198.125. This marked the highest score of any team in the country through three meets — and a triumphant full-circle moment for Johnson.   Two years ago, she’d suffered a season ending injury against Kentucky. But this time around, after battling back, she emerged victorious.


Edited by Ella Chang

Social media content created by Daryl Batt

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