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Nov 26, 2018

Aliute Udoka

By: Taryn Carroll

Note: The following appears in the South Carolina gameday football program

Swimming was Aliute Udoka’s main sport for the first two years of high school, but after feeling like she needed to find something more fulfilling, she discovered rowing. The commute to and from practice was tiring, an hour each way, but it was not going to stop her from participating in the sport she came to love.

Udoka’s choice to come to Tigertown was greatly influenced by the Clemson atmosphere and family feeling.

“The spirit is what caught me…the spirit of the sport here, the spirit of the fans here, the spirit of the students here and the spirit of accomplishment.”

During the first month of her freshman year, she encountered her first obstacle. A freak accident left her with a serious concussion as well as a long road to recovery and return to physical activity. Once fully cleared to work out with the team in January, a second injury threatened to derail her rowing career.

Udoka began to experience pain in her hip. At first, it was bearable, but it quickly worsened. When it began to interfere with her life outside of rowing, tests were ordered to find the source of the pain. The diagnosis came back as a torn hip labrum in her dominant leg. The best solution was surgery.

“My emotions consisted of confusion, anger and sadness.”

The labrum repair surgery took place in May, and Udoka began the rehabilitation and recovery process at home during the summer. The surgery was complex and the recovery process was long.

For the first two months after the operation, Udoka was non-weight bearing. For the three months after that, she still had to use crutches to walk. During the fall, the rehabilitation process continued with a focus on gaining strength and preventing another injury.

Through the injuries and setbacks, Udoka has always been there as a leader for her teammates, even during times when she could not physically do the workouts.

“I have learned that life isn’t always easy, but you always have to remember all the things that you appreciate in life. Nothing can stop you unless you let it.”

In the sport of rowing, connecting with teammates is necessary to finding success on the water. Through the tough workouts and long days and weeks, Udoka relied on her teammates for encouragement and support, but also provided the same to those who needed it.

“I was struggling because I had to hit a water standard that was close to my personal record. It had been almost a year since I hit it and I didn’t think I could do it. But once I sat next to my teammates who I was pulling for, there was nothing that could stop me.”

During the 2018 spring season, Udoka returned as one of the top performers on the team, earning a spot in the varsity 8+ boat. She spent the entirety of the season in the top boat and was a key contributor to the boat’s grand-finals appearance at the ACC Championships in May.

Looking forward, she knows there will continue to be roadblocks, but she is now armed with experience and knowledge of how to navigate the path.

Hard work and persistence have paid off for Udoka through her Clemson career, and she is looking forward to two more years of representing the Tigers.

So what does Udoka attribute her ability to bounce back from adversity on?

“Find your balance, because balance is key.”