53-year-old Long Island woman is a world champion gymnast

CENTER MORICHES, Long Island (WABC) -- A 53-year-old gymnast from Long Island is competing against teenagers and winning world championships even after years of debilitating injuries.

"I'm a strong believer in challenge your limits," said Lori Vollkommer, of Center Moriches.

Vollkommer trained as a Junior Olympian at 16, but gave up gymnastics after suffering a spinal fracture.

In 2014, now a mother of three, Vollkommer fell on some ice and reinjured her back. Chiropractors and physical therapists recommended she do gymnastics as a way to build strength and heal from her injury.

"They said to me, 'Lori, you can do gymnastics. You can go play," Vollkommer recounted.

Vollkommer struggled to find a gymnastics gym which would allow adults. She ended up going to the gym where her kids used to take gymnastics lessons - GymNation in Riverhead.

She started with some private lessons with gymnastics coach Bonnie Bracco-Tellez.

Eventually, she joined a team of girls ranging in ages from 9 to 15.

"I was 49 at the time," Vollkommer said. "I thought, wow, I wonder if I can compete again by the time I'm 50."

Vollkommer did in October 2016 and won in floor.

In March 2017, Vollkommer ruptured her ACL while tumbling. She had an innovative surgery offered through Hospital for Special Surgery and was back on the mat five months later.

Dr. Gregory DiFelice credits her quick recovery to the surgery in which he reattached Vollkommer's ACL rather than reconstructing it.

"The ligament healed and now she's back to normal," DiFelice said. "It's as close as you can get to never having torn your ligament."

DiFelice said Vollkommer was a good candidate for the surgery based upon the particulars of her injury and her age. The surgery is not recommended for people under 30, especially teenagers, according to DiFelice.

"It doesn't work for everybody," he said. "You have to have a specific type of tear."

Dr. Andrew Pearle, Chief of the HSS Sports Medicine Institute, said, "HSS pioneered the ACL repair technique over 40 years ago, and we are still exploring the most appropriate indications for its use. It may be appropriate for treating extremely rare types of knee injuries among older patients."

In 2018, Vollkommer won five gold medals at the International Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs World Championship in Orlando.

Vollkommer still trains three days a week at GymNation.

"I feel the way we stay young is by keeping those things in our life that fill us up, that bring us joy," she said.

Vollkommer said she couldn't do all this without the support of her coach Bracco-Tellez.

Vollkommer's 25-year-old son, Jarad Vollkommer, is her strength and conditioning coach.

"I'm blessed to be her son because she doesn't just inspire me, she inspires so many other people," Jarad Vollkommer said.

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