Thanks to Colleen Rustad for the story and photos

Valerie Rustad loves a challenge. That is why she found fulfillment in rhythmic gymnastics. Because she was born without a left hand, she had to learn how to catch and toss the rhythmic gymnastic apparatus such as the ribbon, rope, and clubs wearing a prosthetic arm.

Some would have looked at Valerie and only seen her limitations, but that was not the case at Redwood Empire Gymnastics (REG). When Valerie began rhythmic classes, her coach immediately recognized her determination and never doubted Valerie’s ability to succeed. Her confidence grew every year she competed; Valerie was proud that she was judged like any other gymnast and when she received good scores it was because she deserved them and not " pity points."

Rhythmic gymnastics also fostered Valerie’s ability to solve problems creatively. Valerie had to devise ways to perform the skills with the limitations of her arm; this also gave her an opportunity to develop her other strengths such as her musicality and expression.

Valerie is now involved in coaching youngsters at REG. She is a role model for them by demonstrating that there are many ways to be a successful gymnast. You don’t even need two hands – just a positive attitude.


Valerie competing in ribbon using her passive prosthetic arm

Valerie doing her rope routine using her body-powered prosthesis