Utah gymnastics: Becky Tutka follows her mom's orders to enjoy life

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 19 2014 9:14 p.m. MDT

Utah gymnast Becky Tutka celebrates her floor routine in Salt Lake City Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The Red Rocks competed against Washington.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone who has ever watched Utah gymnast Becky Tutka perform can’t help but wonder what puts the pep in her step. The junior is a ball of energy and showcases a smile during every performance. While Tutka is truly a happy and positive person, there is something that drives her love for life and living in the moment — her mom.

Jill Tutka is battling spinocerebellar degeneration, which is a condition that affects the nervous system.

“My mom is the sweetest lady ever,” said Tutka. “She’s my motivation. I look up to her because she’s always in a lot of pain but never complains and never says woe me. She says to live life.

“When I’m having a bad day, I think of her and the many things she can’t do. It reminds me how fortunate I am.”

It was when she was just 2½ years old that Jill Tutka took Becky to her first tumbling class.

“I’m so thankful she took me to mommy-and-me classes because I wouldn’t be here without that,” said Becky Tutka.

Jill Tutka admits that her daughter’s love and talent for gymnastics was obvious from the onset.

“When she was around 8 years old, I remember her doing this difficult move and her teacher suggesting we move her to an advanced gym. That’s when I really knew how good Becky was,” said Jill Tutka.

That move meant a longer drive since the new gym was located farther away from Tutka’s rural hometown of Upper Black Eddy, Pa. But the longer drives with her mom are something Becky Tutka greatly values now that she’s away from home.

Jill Tutka feels the same since traveling isn’t as feasible nowadays. The senior Tutka admits she tires easily and has to use a wheelchair often. But she was able to attend Utah’s meet at Michigan this season and will fly to nationals in April.

“Sometimes I watch a video of when my mom was running around with me, and now it’s almost an unbelievable thing. I’m used to it because I’ve watched it progress, and I think that gave me a better understanding,” said Becky Tutka.

One thing for sure is that Jill Tutka remains her daughter’s biggest fan.

“Her dad and I are so proud of her,” Jill Tutka said. “We miss her so much, but she’s got a great team to support her. It also helps with the Lia connection.”

The Lia connection is Lia Del Priore, who also left Pennsylvania to compete for Utah. The two gymnasts have been best friends since the sixth grade.

"Making the best of every situation is Becky’s personality," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "She’s one that typically keeps things light in the gym, but when you talk to her about her mom she gets emotional. I know sometimes she feels guilty she’s not around to spend more time with her mom and help her dad out, but I also know they're cheering her on.”

Becky Tutka said she plans to move home after she completes her senior year next season. For now, she’s focused on helping her team compete at the Pac-12 championships Saturday at Cal. She’s one of Utah’s best competitors on floor and is also strong on vault and beam when she subs.

“I don’t know how to explain what she brings. She’s such a competitor and so upbeat and positive,” Marsden said. “She's her teammates' biggest fan and always cheering for them."

Seems like the daughter has listened to her mom's advice about living life.

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