IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Misty-Jade Carlson stands out in a way no other gymnast at the University of Iowa can with hardships, passion, and a journey that stretches halfway around the world.
“My story began after I was born when I was left at a police station and taken to an orphanage,” Carlson said.
Carlson was four months old when she was adopted from China and brought to the United States.
“Being adopted is something that will always be a part of me,” Carlson said. “It has given me a window to the culture I was born into while the home I grew up in has provided me with opportunities that have made me who I am.”
One of those opportunities came in the form of gymnastics. Carlson won the all-around title at the Oregon State competition in 2012 and all-around state title in Washington in 2014. Carlson also qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
“I was raised to be resilient, work hard, and always fight for what I believe in,” Carlson said. “Gymnastics taught me independence, but nothing could have prepared me for the transition from the club to collegiate level.”
Like all freshmen, Carlson’s first year at Iowa was full of adjustments. After competing as an individual for so long, she needed to learn to fit onto a team.
I struggled to find who I was and my role on the team,” Carlson said. “It was difficult for me to break down my walls and get accustomed to having 18 other teammates who, as I’ve always learned, will always be there for me.”
Unfortunately, loss has been a major theme in Carlson’s life, but the GymHawks taught her to rely on others, especially after losing her brother before her sophomore year.
“I’ve experienced grief after losing my dad from sickness when I was ten, but when I lost my brother to suicide going into my sophomore year; something inside me changed. I decided never to take anything for granted and realized it was okay to rely on others.”
Carlson fits into the GymHawk family perfectly because she embraces her story.
“We forget to embrace our stories and unique characteristics that have shaped us in to who we are today, and that makes us stand out as individuals,” Carlson said. “Through grit and experience, we all discover what makes us stand out by accepting the chaos that makes us who we are.”
Carlson thanks her teammates for pushing her to become a better human being.
“This team is my family,” Carlson said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have discovered what defines me as an athlete, teammate, or person.”