hit counter

The Niagara gymnast, who has lived her life with heart problems, accepts a full scholarship from Utah State University

After Nyla Morabito underwent open-heart surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children when she was seven months old, her parents, Chauncey and Asia, were warned to lower their expectations.

“They told us that she didn’t really have a lot of quality of life,” her mother recalls.

Contact sports like hockey, which her brother Brodie played, or soccer were a total no-no, even for someone bursting with energy despite an illness that required constant medication.

Nyla was five when she was introduced to gymnastics and began to build up her muscles, including her heart.

As the family looks back 17 years later and prepares to send Nyla to Utah State University on a full-time athletic scholarship, the benefits of that decision were nothing but impressive.

“Nyla actually rebuilt her heart by doing gymnastics,” her mother said.

Morabito, who intends to study kinesiology at Utah State after graduating from Notre Dame College School in her native Welland, is grateful that she gave her all the gymnastics.

“It’s definitely a blessing to be healthy and no longer have surgeries,” she said before attending a grant signing ceremony.

Growing up, Morabito wasn’t worried about the impact exercise could have on her health.

“But I know my parents got a little stressed about it at times,” she said. “But in the end it really helped me.

“After all that, it kind of made me healthier and stronger.”

Nine universities were interested in adding the Canadian gymnastics champion to their teams. She chose Utah State because of the school’s reputation in women’s gymnastics and the close-knit size of the team, 15 compared to 25–30 for other Division 1 programs.

“It was just always a school that interested me. Watching the girls and life there has always been very fascinating to me,” she said. “It’s a place I wanted to go.”

She thought Logan, Utah was “amazing” while visiting the main campus with her parents.

“The view there, the mountains and just the girls, the whole team.”

Asia Morabito was also impressed with where her daughter will live away from home for the first time.

“It was a safe community.”

During the campus visit, they attended a football game against the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

“It seemed like the whole city had gone.”

From the grants on the table, Morabito chose the one furthest from her childhood home in Welland.

“It’s definitely the furthest that I chose, it’s about a four and a half hour flight time,” she said.

Morabito doesn’t think homesickness will get the better of her when she starts juggling academics and track and field as a full-time student at Utah State

“Probably a little, but all the girls there, the freshmen, will be going through the same thing so we can all help each other.”

The size of the team, about 15 girls, also speaks for the Aggies.

“It’s definitely not that big compared to other schools, which I really like.”

In the state of Utah, Morabito, a member of Manjaks Gymnastics Club in Mississaauaga, will compete as part of a team for the first time.

“It will definitely be different than what I’m doing now because right now I’m obviously doing it alone as an individual athlete,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really good change to be part of a team.”

She doesn’t worry about giving up control and being one of many instead of one.

“I also like to support other girls, including in competitions. I just love cheering other people on.”

Morabito, who has been off heart medication for about three years, trains with her Mississauga club about five times a week, sometimes for up to five and a half hours a day.

How does she do it and still remain on the high school honors roll?

“Honestly, just multitasking,” she replied. “Seeing where the gym has taken me motivates me to keep exercising and doing well in school.”

“Sometimes it’s a bit time consuming. I also find a way to deal with it.”

The Morabitos made sure that their daughter’s life was not exclusively consumed by sport. They made it a point to schedule game dates.

“She’s an outside of the gym person,” her mother said. “We always made sure she did things outside of the gym.”

Morabito, a vault and bars specialist, won a Canadian championship in 2022 and recently finished runner-up at another national championship. She has also taken part in an international competition in France.

Morabito would like to one day represent Canada at the Olympics.

“It’s definitely a goal, but I don’t want to look too far ahead and overtake myself,” she said. “I’m just taking one step at a time.”

The window for women in world-class gymnastics was widening.

“They used to stop at around the age of 20, but now there are a lot of girls who are still out there at 25 to 30,” Morabito said. “It’s also kind of motivating to see that the girls who love the sport so much stick with it and are very successful.”

Outside of gymnastics, Morabito hopes that a degree in kinesiology will prepare her for a career in physical therapy or sports psychology.”

Leave a Comment