SALT LAKE CITY — Friday night was the first time this tumbling champion has been in public since an injury halted his career.
Gymnast Kalon Ludvigson injured himself severely at a jumping camp this past summer, and hasn’t walked since.
"I had a surgeon in Pennsylvania say, ‘If anybody can pull out of it, that it would be me.’ So, I'm hoping,” Ludvigson said .
For the first time since paramedics carried him into an ambulance, the crowd at a gymnastics competition in Salt Lake City carried his spirits.
"This is my first kind of coming out party, I guess, in the gymnastics world,” Ludvigson said, “and, so, for a lot of people, they haven't seen me since before I was injured."
Nastia Liukin, 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, flew to Salt Lake City just to support her friend.
"More than that, it's a family. I think that's what makes it. When somebody is hurt or when somebody is heart-broken, whatever, we feel that pain with them," Liukin said.
Before his injury, Ludvigson, from Sterling, Utah, in Sanpete County, was one of the best gymnastics tumblers the world.
He won his first tumbling title in 2006. Since then, Ludvigson has 20 World Championship and World Cup medals, two World Records, and eight consecutive USA National Titles.
He probably had many more in front of him.
"I always knew one day he'd be done with his career, of course,” said Justen Millerbernd, Ludvigson’s coach, “but things don't always happen the way you think. You just have to find the best out of it and go from that."
That includes hosting competitions, like the one being held this weekend at the Salt Palace in Ludvigson's name.
"I could honestly sit here and watch tumbling all day. I just love it," laughed Ludvigson, “I'll be involved, and I think I will be forever."
A few months ago, Ludvigson didn’t have any feelings below his elbow. Friday night, he was able to sign autographs for fans who wanted to meet him. His goal is to walk again.
“I’m working hard to get there,” said Ludvigson, “it’s about a 2-year window that they kind of project where you will end up, and it’s been about 7 months since my injury, so there is always hope. That's the thing with spinal cord injuries. Nobody ever really knows.”