Theresa Kulikowski completed an amazing career before undergoing surgery.
May 2, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
University of Utah senior gymnast Theresa Kulikowski underwent surgery today at University Hospital to remove a hemangioblastoma vascular tumor attached to her spinal column. The doctors were able to remove the three-millimeter tumor with minimal impact to the vertebrae. She was conscious and moving after the surgery and had good strength in her feet and hands.
Kulikowski learned of the tumor in January when she had an MRI taken to diagnose a dislocated rib. She and her teammates decided to say nothing during the season in order to deflect the attention that would come with the announcement.
Kulikowski overcame a series of injuries throughout her final season to make the All-America first team on bars and beam at the recently completed NCAA Championships on April 24-26. She was voted the 2003 AAI Senior Gymnast of the Year at the championships. A 14-time All-American and three-time NCAA individual champion, Kulikowski was denied a shot at another NCAA title when she injured her shoulder during the Super Six team finals.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native missed a total of five meets in 2003 with a dislocated rib and a broken finger. She worked through a bulging disc, a bone fragment and a stress fracture in her back to compete at regionals and nationals. Despite minimal practice time due to the back problems, Kulikowski won the NCAA region beam title with a perfect 10.0 (accorded by all four judges) and also won the region uneven bar title. On the first night of the NCAA Championships, she tied for first in the evening session on bars and placed second on beam, to make first-team All-American and qualify for individual event finals.
Kulikowski graduated last May with a 4.0 cumulative GPA. She was named a Verizon first-team Academic All-American and the 2002 Verizon Academic Team Member of the Year. She has spent this year taking prerequisite courses for the physical therapy program while maintaining her perfect grade point average.