Juvenile Arthritis Meets its Match in Preteen Gymnast Katie Chipman

We’ve all seen them – gymnasts jumping high, twirling low, and bending their bodies in ways most of us never thought possible!

And if you think about it, gymnastics in many ways is the height of athletics, considering the intricate moves that often seem to defy gravity.

So Nebraska 12-year-old Katie Chipman is already an impressive young lady before we even finish the sentence: She is living with juvenile arthritis.

Let that sink in! And don’t get me wrong – we all know well that living with a chronic condition should not and does not define who we are, but Katie deserves some extra kudos for excelling in an activity that her condition renders extraordinarily difficult.

Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16. It affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States.

According to Omaha.com, Katie herself was diagnosed with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, whose symptoms include joint pain & inflammation, fever, rash, and more.

A champion gymnast suffers a condition that includes joint pain and inflammation… and healthy joints are sort of an important physical quality for gymnasts (and any athletes, really). Damn girl, color us impressed.

Diagnosed at age 5, at her worst Katie couldn’t even stand or walk on her own. She embarked on a difficulty journey in finding the best treatment (and suffering the worst side effects) that probably should have rendered gymnastics a pipe dream at best.

But that didn’t stop Katie! Not only did she get well enough to get back on the trampoline, but she has excelled. At a recent regional competition, Katie took first in the trampoline category, placed third in the double mini category, and sixth in tumbling.

“I want to do it because it’s fun,” Katie said. “I want to put time and effort into it, because I want to compete well.”

And just to up the “badass meter” – Katie’s coach (whom has been working with Katie for almost a year) didn’t even know about her juvenile arthritis until she missed a few practices months into the coaching!

Katie, who will start eighth grade in the fall, doesn’t want her condition to make her different.

“I just have to go through it sometimes, because I don’t like to sit out. I like to be like everyone else and like a normal kid.”

With all due respect, Katie: You’re so much stronger than just “a normal kid.”

To read more about Katie’s journey, click here and to watch Katie in action, click here.

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