Utes' Onodi beset yet again by injury

Playing hurt
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The tears that burned in gymnast Gabi Onodi's eyes Friday had nothing to do with Utah's lackluster win over Oregon State. For her, a loosened grip on the uneven bars was the capper in what's become a frustrating year.

She could barely hold herself together as she faced the media, explaining that she always felt she was going up against some obstacle other than what the events themselves presented.

With a few days between herself and that meet, Onodi can at least offer up a bit of a twisted smile in thinking of her bad luck, but her overall feelings haven't changed.

With just two meets left in the regular season, Onodi feels like her year has never really started. Onodi has dealt with an inner ear infection for more than a month, brought on by a case of the flu she contracted in January.

The illness has thrown her balance off and she has missed two meets because of it, and has sat out some events in others. She is still taking medication for the problem.

The illness has thrown her balance off and she has missed two meets because of it, and has sat out some events in others. She is still taking medication for the problem.

Then, on Sunday during practice, Onodi twisted her ankle when she was practicing her floor routine and her foot slipped into the pit. The injury isn't expected to keep her out of tonight's meet at No. 3 Florida, but she won't be 100 percent either.

"Greg [Marsden] told me he was really counting on me this meet, and then I got injured," she said of her coach. "My first thought was, 'Oh my gosh, I screwed up again.' "

Onodi has had a lot of those thoughts this year, putting her into a funk the likes of which she never expected.

"You can tell it's getting to her," Marsden said. "She's had a tough six weeks."

Onodi enjoyed a breakout year in 2005 after competing only in exhibition as a freshman, partially because of an injured back, and competing sporadically as a sophomore. She often started Utah's rotation on the balance beam and earned her way into the vault and floor lineups as well.

She hit 25 out of 28 routines and was named the team's most improved gymnast.

"This year, I wanted to get better than I was last year," she said. "That was my big goal because last year was so good, but it hasn't been as smooth as I wanted."

Onodi's latest frustrations came during her bars set against Oregon State. She originally only was supposed to compete exhibition on the event, but replaced Katie Kivisto as the leadoff when Kivisto crashed during warm-ups and dislocated her elbow.

Onodi, who had never competed on the bars, saw an opportunity to prove herself, but her hopes of making a big impression unraveled along with the Velcro on her grip.

"I saw it coming off when I was twisting on the low bar," she said. "I thought I could get through everything just fine, but then when I was on the high bar I worried I might peel off."

Rather than take that chance, she didn't perform her dismount and simply dropped to the mat. She only earned a 9.45, and felt she'd blown her shot of earning a place in the lineup.

"You could see how important it was for her to hit," teammate Gritt Hofmann said. "It's always sad when your senior year doesn't go the way you want it. But she has improved, and she's still doing a great job for us."

Onodi admits she is down and frustrated, calling for Marsden to do more psychological coaxing than technical coaching with the former Hungarian National Team member. With Kivisto lost for the season, Marsden needs Onodi now more than ever.

Natalie Nicoloff also was lost for the season with a torn tendon in her arm, leaving the Utes with very few backups on bars. Onodi might become Utah's leadoff on the bars.

"I told her she has almost six weeks left until the season's over and that can seem like a lifetime in gymnastics," he said. "If she can just get over the illness, she has plenty of time to recapture her old form."

Onodi said she is game, focusing on what might happen in the future rather than the past disappointments.

"Right now, I'd just like to finish my career with a couple good routines and do what I can to help the team on one or two events," she said.