Talia Little beam pose

Talia Little Overcomes Hearing Loss to Compete for Boise State

The day a gymnast commits to a college is one of the best moments in her club career. All the hard work and dedication has paid off in the form of at least a spot on a college team, if not an athletic scholarship. Such was the case for Talia Little, who committed to Boise State in November 2018. 

The coaches at Boise State reached out to Little, who was struggling to find the right college fit. She wanted a place that would make her happy, and she made a positive connection with Boise State.  

“I felt a lot of relief because I wanted to go somewhere that was a lot different than home, and Boise definitely has that,” Little said. She added that she loves the mountains, the people in Boise as a whole, and the moral compasses the members of the team have. 

Weeks later, Little was unsure of her future in the sport. Seemingly overnight, she started feeling off. She would go on to be diagnosed with sudden sensory hearing loss, something she’ll live with for the rest of her life. To this day, she doesn’t know what caused it. 

“I went into the gym one day, and it just felt like my ear was kind of clogged. We went to bars first, and by the end of the bars practice I couldn’t even stand up without feeling the room spinning. I just heard this really loud hissing in my ear,” Little said. Later that day, she got it checked out and was faced with the diagnosis. 

On top of that, her level 10 season was about to start. Some of her biggest struggles getting back to the gym were balance and feeling dizzy. 

“There were a good two weeks where I didn’t do anything in the gym other than conditioning because I just felt unsteady on all the equipment,” Little said. “I just committed to a college, and I’m not even sure if I’m gonna be able to compete at the first meet,” she thought to herself. “But I had coaches at the time who were very motivating with getting me back on the equipment and helping me navigate through all of that.”

Getting back to high-level gymnastics was a learning process. Little also experienced ringing in her ear, and she had to train herself to tune it out. Today, she only notices the ringing if she focuses hard on it. 

“I had to try just to focus on the surroundings and focus strictly on what I’m doing. I tried really hard on beam to pay attention to staying in a straight line even if I feel like I’m not in a straight line, even if I felt like I was swinging side to side. Lots of repetitions on the floor, lots of basics on bars,” Little said. She also had muscle memory on her side. 

“You do so many skills over and over and over again that even if something feels slightly off, you gotta trust your body that you’re gonna be able to do it just like you did before,” Little added. 

Little ended up competing in the upcoming level 10 season. “It ended up being my best,” she recalled. 

That’s a testament to her work ethic. 

“She was always determined to be super competitive and worked really hard to perfect all of her skills,” Little’s club coach, Sarah Lippincott, said.  “She just never gave up.” 

From the outside, you’d never know what she’s been through. 

“At the end of freshman year I told [the Boise State coaches], and they were in shock because they didn’t even know about that,” Little said. “They would’ve never known unless I had told them.”

Now a junior at Boise State, Little hasn’t slowed down. She’s established herself as a steady competitor on both bars and beam for the Broncos, recording an NQS of 9.830 on bars and a 9.815 on beam last season. Through these times, she’s grown a lot as a person. 

“It teaches you dedication, and it teaches you to find passion and things even when it gets hard. I am definitely a type of person who looks for goals and I like to accomplish those,” Little said. “What I’ve figured out throughout all of J.O. and all of college is that I like to accomplish those goals with other people. I do a lot of stuff because I’m doing it with someone else. I like to share the journey with someone.”

As a college gymnast, she gets to do just that. She has a whole team by her side ready to support her, both in gymnastics and life. And she’s there to do the same for others as well.

READ THIS NEXT: A Decade of Excellence for Boise State on Bars

Article by Tara Graeve

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