“It makes me proud how far I was able to go in the sport with the amount of pain I was in.”
Activities: Elite Gymnast, Tumbling Champion
Social Media: @evedoudican
Career: 2017, 2018 USA Gymnastics Champion (Jr. Div), 2019 USA World Champion, committed to Oklahoma City University, Student Athlete
Career Accomplishments: https://evedoudican.wixsite.com/mysite/single-post/2020/05/06/Living-With-an-Invisible-Illness
2019 World Championships – youngest competitor at the competition- 2nd in all-around
National Competition Results
- 2019 USA Gymnastics Championships, Des Moines, Iowa – 1st-TU
- 2019 Elite Challenge, Winston-Salem, N.C. – 3rd-TU
- 2019 VIP Classic, Evansville, Ind. – 1st-TU
- 2018 USA Gymnastics Championships, Greensboro, N.C. – 1st-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2018 Elite Challenge, Colorado Springs, Colo. – 4th-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2018 Winter Classic, Battle Creek, Mich. – 1st-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2017 USA Gymnastics Championships, Milwaukee, Wis. – 1st-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2017 Elite Challenge, Colorado Springs, Colo. – 1st-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2017 Winter Classic, Battle Creek, Mich. – 1st-TU (Jr. Div.)
- 2016 USA Gymnastics Championships, Providence, R.I. – 4th -TU (Youth)
- 2016 Elite Challenge, Colorado Springs, Colo. – 1st-TU (Youth)
- 2016 Winter Classic, Battle Creek, Mich. – 1st-TU (Youth)
- 2015 USA Gymnastics Championships, Greensboro, N.C. – 2nd-TU (Youth)
- 2015 Elite Challenge, Colorado Springs, Colo. – 2nd-TU (Youth)
- 2015 Dallas Cup, Dallas, Texas – 1st-TU (Youth)
International Competition Results
- 2020 Baku World Cup, Baku, Azerbaijan –
- 2019 World Championships, Tokyo, Japan – 2nd-Team AA; 4th-TU Team; 5th-TU
- 2019 Valladolid World Cup, Valladolid, Spain – 6th-TU
- 2018 World Age Group Competition, St. Petersburg, Russia – 4th-TU(15-16)
- 2017 World Age Group Competition, Sofia, Bulgaria – 1st-TU (15-16)
- 2015 World Age Group Competition, Odense, Denmark – 3rd-TU(T) (13-14)
- 2014 World Age Group Competitions, Daytona Beach, Fla. – 1st-TU (11-12)
Song: Crazy Beautiful Life by Kesha
What the human body can do is amazing, what it can do with the right spirit and frame of mind, is indescribable. That is how I see Eve Doudican, because what words can you use to describe someone blessed with an immense amount of athletic ability, tethered to, an often times, debilitating illness, who in spite of it all, was still able to compete and excel to Elite gymnast status?
I stumbled across Eve by watching Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastic videos on YouTube. If you watch enough videos, YouTube starts posting up “related” videos, so I got to the Tumbling and Trampoline division. I thought it was cool, because it was not a division of gymnastics I knew much about. I had seen Trampoline competitions in the Olympics, but I had never seen Tumbling. Initially I thought it was only for men because that was all that was coming up, “Men’s Finals” and “Men’s World Championships,” so I did a search for “Women’s Tumbling World Championships” and a slew of videos came up. Eve popped up in the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. After watching her video, I did and Instagram search. When I found her on IG, I looked at a few of her photos, and my gut told me to reach out to her for an interview. Listening to my instincts, I reached out to her because I admired her skill and ability, and she looked so happy in her pictures, like genuinely happy. I continued looking at her photos after I reached out to her, so I would know what questions to ask, in case she said, ” yes” to the interview. In looking through her photos I came across a picture that directs to a link in her bio. The link, leads you to a blog of her story. After reading her story, I understood why my gut told me to reach out to her for an interview.
I don’t know Eve personally, but in reading her story and her responses to my questions. Reading about pain she experienced both physically and mentally, and seeing what she was able to accomplish competing in a sport that she loves, reading her words of compassion and forgiveness towards many who were part of her mental anguish…what other word is more befitting than “Indescribable?”
Please take the time to read my interview with Eve and check out her blog, the link can be found above in the Career Accomplishment section. Thank you Eve for agreeing to do this interview and sharing your story with MCBMI. Please join us Sunday Dec. 6th at 1 pm (EST) for a LIVE CHAT with Eve on the MCBMI IG page @mcbmi
Q: How old were you when you started gymnastics?
My mom put me in Mommy & Me classes when I was two and I just really loved it and stuck with it. I competed for the first time when I was five years old.
Q: What led you to solely tumbling?
I was competing in Artistic Gymnastics, which is: bars, floor, beam and vault. I just really fell in love with tumbling. I don’t think I realized at the time that there even was a sport that focused only on tumbling, but I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do and she found me a place to start and I just took off from there.
Q: What do you love about tumbling?
Tumbling puts me in my happy place. When I am tumbling, it’s like the outside world disappears and I can just have fun. I love everything about it. I love the feeling of doing something new and that there is always something new to learn. There is always a goal or something to work towards.
Q: What is going through your mind during your passes?
I don’t think too much during my passes. If I start thinking, I end up overthinking. I count my steps when I run, and once I start flipping I just tell myself what skill is next.
Q: Do you compete in trampoline as well?
My coach, Chauncy Haydon, had a rule that we had to compete both trampoline and tumbling until we reach the elite level on one. Once you are elite on one event you can choose to drop the other or keep doing both. I went elite at 11 years old and immediately dropped the trampoline. After a few years, I decided to do it again just for fun. I made it to level ten that year and then decided to stop again at then end of the season.
Q: How many competitive divisions of gymnastics are there? We hear mostly about Artistic Gymnastics, and a bit about Rhythmic Gymnastics, but nothing about the other divisions.. Why do you think that is?
There are four different kinds of gymnastics. Artistic Gymnastics is the one most people know about, then there is Rhythmic Gymnastics, Acrobatic Gymnastics, and Trampoline and Tumbling. I think there are many reasons that most people have never even heard of Trampoline and Tumbling. In my opinion, social media is a huge influence in this. Artistic Gymnastics gets a lot of attention on all social platforms so that is the one most people know of. It is also an Olympic sport and Team USA is incredibly successful, so that makes it more popular than others. Trampoline and Rhythmic Gymnastics are also Olympic sports; they, in my opinion, just don’t get enough publicity. I believe another big reason is funding from USA Gymnastics. Artistic Gymnasts get a lot of money put into it. The highest level trampolinists do receive a small amount of funding, but tumblers do not receive any. I believe this proves where USA Gymnastics puts their money is where they spend most of their time and effort and unfortunately that is not tumbling.
Q: You are a Senior in High School. Before the Pandemic, how did travel for meets affect your schooling?
I was in public school until my freshman year of high school and it was incredibly difficult. I have a very sensitive personality, so I had a hard time when teachers would get upset at how much I was gone. It got harder to keep up with work and, as I got older, I was chosen for more camps and competitions so we knew I would be missing more and more school. Halfway through my freshman year, I switched to online school. This was the biggest blessing. I did my school through the University of Missouri High School, but I was lucky to find an in person school that helped kids with online school. This school had teachers that would help me stay on track. So, while I was doing online school on my own track, I was still able to get help and have a place to go to focus on my work. Online school was the perfect answer for me. I was very disciplined with my work and ended up graduating eight months early.
Q: So you have competed at the World Championships. What was that like and does it take place at the same time as other gymnastic divisions?
I competed at the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan. Every facet of gymnastics has their own World Championships so it was only Trampoline and Tumbling. This was the most amazing experience I have ever had. We spent two weeks in Japan, the first week was a training camp and the second week was competition. Competition starts with individual prelims, and that determines the rest of the week. I was in fourth place after prelims which qualified me into individual finals, team finals, and all around team finals. This meant I competed four days in a row which was a huge challenge. I ended in fifth place individually, fourth place in team finals, and we got a silver medal in the team all around competition. I was the youngest person in the entire competition which felt like a big accomplishment for me.
Q: What are your plans after you graduate? Is college in the picture? If so, what will you major in? Will you continue to compete on the Elite level with tumbling?
I am committed to Oklahoma City University for STUNT. I will be majoring in Exercise Science with a minor in Child Advocacy. I am super excited for this next journey and to be able to focus on my education. This is the perfect school for me and I am so excited to be on a team and still be able to compete. I am no longer competing in power tumbling.
Q: You recently wrote a blog entitled “Living With an Invisible Illness.” Can you tell us what the illness is and how it affects your body?
In February I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. This is an autoimmune disease that attacks my gastrointestinal tract. It can affect anywhere in the GI tract, but mine is in my ileum and entire colon. Crohn’s Disease causes inflammation in these areas but also affects other areas of my body indirectly.
Q: What is the prognosis of your illness?
There is no cure for Crohn’s Disease but most people can achieve remission and live a normal life. Diet and medication will always have to be a big part of my life, but hopefully I will be able to live a normal life with little to no symptoms.
Q: When did symptoms begin and what were they?
I have dealt with symptoms my whole life but it didn’t get debilitating until this year. My worst symptom is stomach pain that can keep me in bed for days. I also deal with constant nausea, loss of appetite, and my body not being able to get nutrients from the food that I do eat. Another big issue I had was injuries. I was always getting hurt at practice more than everyone else and was constantly getting MRI’s and X-rays. The doctors always said that nothing showed up besides inflammation, which we now know was because of my Crohn’s Disease.
Q: Did you ever doubt yourself and begin to believe it was all in your head?
Yes, I doubted myself all the time. I started to think everyone had the same amount of pain that I did. I just thought that I had a low pain tolerance. I had seen too many doctors to count and none of them knew what was wrong so I started to believe it was all fake. This was one of the biggest mental struggles I have ever faced.
Q: I know it took several years for the proper diagnosis to be made. How many years did it take? What took so long, and how were the symptoms affecting you as an athlete?
Crohn’s Disease is very difficult to diagnose. There is no test you can take that says you do or do not have it for sure. It has to be diagnosed through a colonoscopy. I went to my first gastrointestinal doctor when I was ten years old. He misdiagnosed the issue and after I went through treatment and didn’t get better he wanted to do surgery. The surgery was very risky so my family and I decided not to go through with it. We now know that the surgery wouldn’t have solved the problem anyway, so we made the right decision. We stopped seeing that doctor but I was too young to see an adult gastroenterologist so we started searching for other answers. I saw a nutritionist when I was 15 and followed everything she told me. Food had always been the biggest trigger for my disease, so this did provide some symptom relief because I started eating a super strict, clean diet. After about a year, things started getting worse again. At the beginning of this year I started to not be able to live a normal life. The pain and toll the disease was taking on my body was so severe. I was finally old enough to get into a new GI doctor and after a few months they finally did a colonoscopy and diagnosed me. I missed practices every week for years because of my illness. I would spend practices laying on the floor because of how much pain I was in. It affected every part of my training in so many ways, but I believe it made me a better athlete. I learned how to push through a pain and illness that most people never experience. It makes me proud how far I was able to go in the sport with the amount of pain I was in.
Q: It had to be hard for your parents to see you struggling, seemingly getting worse. How did they hold the family together? What did they do to keep you encouraged?
My family is absolutely amazing. My parents are my biggest supporters and I am so grateful for all they have done for me on this journey to getting better. I would always feel guilty if I had to miss school or practice because I wasn’t feeling good, but they would always make sure I knew it was okay. They never stopped searching for answers for me and taking me to whatever doctors appointments I needed. They stayed so strong through everything and always supported me when I was upset.
Q: What if any adaptations did you make to dull the symptoms?
I made many changes before my diagnosis to help my symptoms. I am always the most sick in the mornings, so I would get up early every morning and take walks. I would try and get the pain out of the way before I had to be somewhere. I went on all kinds of crazy diets. I have been dairy free since I saw my first GI doctor when I was ten. I went on a liquid diet for three months this year. I have gone on a soft food diet, which meant eating baby food because it was easy to digest. I made so many little changes in my life to help with my symptoms before my diagnosis, I’m sure there are some that I don’t even notice anymore.
Q: How did this “invisible illness” affect you mentally?
I went through a lot of mental struggles with my Crohn’s Disease. Before my diagnosis, I felt like I was crazy and I was making everything up. This was really hard for me mentally and I would get so upset with myself. I had a hard time feeling extremely guilty anytime I had to cancel anything or miss a practice because of my illness. After my diagnosis, I started to get very depressed. I was diagnosed about a week before the whole country went on lockdown, so while I was trying to accept this new life, I was also stuck in my house. My whole life was changing, I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed some days, and I had no interest in doing any of the things that I had loved before. It was really hard to accept this disease and how it would affect me for the rest of my life. Eventually, I realized how lucky I was to finally have an answer, and I met some people that I could talk to online who also had Crohn’s. Once I changed my mindset and started to come out of the dark place I was in, it really changed my views on everything. I realized that my health was now the most important thing in my life. I had to accept that there was a good chance I would never be the level of athlete that I was before. Most importantly, I started appreciating all of the little things in life.
Q: You mentioned in your blog you were bullied. How did you deal with that and a physical illness that no one could seem to identify?
I had a very difficult time dealing with the hate I got from others. My whole life was tumbling, so most of the hate I received was while I was traveling. I think this was because people really got to see how it affected me and were around me all the time, not just when I felt up to it. When I traveled, I also had to take my own food or have the chef make me special meals. I received a lot of rude comments and was a joke to a lot of athletes and a couple of coaches as well. People would say I was just trying to get out of practicing when I was sick. No one understood why I was dieting the way I was. I had a lot of people try to tell me I was wrong, and that those certain foods I said I couldn’t have really couldn’t make me sick. I dealt with it the best I could. I kept a straight face in front of people but when I was around my parents and my coach I would be a mess. It was so frustrating I didn’t know how to deal with it. I would just cry and yell. I was lucky to have a support system that I could express my feelings to. One of the worst incidents took place the night before I competed the first day at the World Championships. I hadn’t eaten that night and was going to the store in the hotel to find food when I was stopped by a coach. Surrounded by other athletes and coaches, this coach made a comment about my diet that just broke me. I was dealing with so much that not having support from people that didn’t know anything about my situation just tore me down. Instead of going to find food I went to my parents room and just lost it. I cried and cried and just completely broke down. This still breaks my heart to think about, but I have so much forgiveness in my heart for all of the people that didn’t know and made comments about me. I have no hard feelings towards anyone because I didn’t even know what was wrong myself. I have lost a lot of people I was close to because of my diagnosis, but I have realized that I just don’t need people in my life who are not going to support me. I have an amazing support system and I am grateful for everyone I have in my life right now.
Q: With all that was going on, how were you able to continue participating in your sport?
As things progressed, it got harder and harder to be able to compete. My last two competitions, I had not been in the gym for weeks before I competed. I tried to adjust my diet and do certain things to make sure I was able to feel good enough to compete, but for training I just had to take it one day at a time. There were many days I would have to leave practice or not go. I can’t even tell you how many times I threw up in that gym bathroom. I am grateful to have the best coach that understood and knew I wasn’t making anything up. When I needed to sit out or go home, he understood and I really think that is the reason I was able to keep going for so long. Once I got really sick, we had the understanding that everything was based on how I felt that day. We would change workouts, practice times, whatever needed to be done to make sure I was as successful as I could be.
Q: Did you ever consider quitting? If so, what stopped you?
I considered quitting many times. I think every elite gymnast has considered quitting at one point or another. Whether it’s after a bad practice, an injury, or just feeling burned out. With all of the stress of my illness, the gym was my safe place. While I was still healthy enough to train, I loved practice because I could not think about anything else going on. I could have ten doctor’s appointments that week, but while I was in the gym, none of that existed. Having this outlet and safe place was exactly what I needed. After everything I have been through this year, I have made the decision to retire. I have not really made it public yet because it was a hard decision for me personally and I only told the people I was close to. I was honest with the people that asked, but I didn’t feel like I owed it to anyone to make a big post or statement about it. I tried to come back after the lockdown was lifted, but my heart just wasn’t in it like it was before. My body was so broken and unhealthy that it just couldn’t take it. I needed to retire to get healthy and I am completely content, happy, and know I made the right decision. Having the opportunity to compete in college has given me something to work towards and a reason to get back in the gym and have fun. I am putting no stress on myself and just want to enjoy every second I still get to tumble no matter what sport it is for.
Q: What advice can you give other people out there dealing with symptoms that persist yet their doctor can’t determine what the issue is?
Don’t give up. It is so easy just to accept that no doctor will figure it out but you have to keep searching for an answer. Keep looking for new doctors that have a different perspective. Don’t doubt your own feelings and symptoms. You are the only one that knows how you feel, so you have to believe yourself and listen to your body. Don’t give up hope.
Q: How has the proper diagnosis impacted your life?
My life has changed so much since my diagnosis. I am happier and healthier than I have been in a very long time. Although it is weird not being in the gym everyday, and I miss seeing my coach everyday, I have found new things I enjoy doing. I have been able to find who I am outside of tumbling.
Q: How do you like to spend what little free time you have?
I have started to really enjoy reading when I have free time. It helps me to unwind and it is a big stress reliever for me. I also love spending time with my family and playing with my dogs.
Q: Give me a song you love, for whatever reason?
My favorite song is Crazy Beautiful Life by Kesha. It can always put me in a good mood and I used it as my pump up song before a competition so it has a lot of good memories associated with it.
Q: Why did you agree to be a part of MCBMI?
I want to encourage young girls. I had a hard time with the way I looked when I was younger. I loved my muscles in the gym but I would dress in baggy clothes and cover them up outside of the gym. I got made fun of for a long time for the way I looked and it was difficult, but I wish that I would have owned my muscles and been proud of them. I work so hard to be strong and I am proud of the way I look. I want young girls to be proud and not be scared to show off their muscles. I want them to know being strong is amazing and not something you should try to hide.