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Buckmann Brings "Broken" lessons to readers

“Broken to Brilliant” by first time author Gary Buckmann is the tale of a young man maintaining an attitude of optimism well into adulthood.

Gary Buckmann
The 209 area author takes readers on his journey through life with a can-do attitude through some truly trying times. A lifelong gymnast, Buckmann shares stories of lessons learned early through the eyes of both a gymnast as well as a coach.

Yet it was his stint at Chico State which would truly test not only his mind over matter philosophy, but his strength, both physically as well as mentally.

In February of 1972, at the young age of 20, Buckmann was severely injured during a vault exercise. Passionate for the sport and perhaps fearless to a fault, the former gymnast’s passion and drive resulted in a broken neck. An injury which resulted in paralysis in both arms, as well as his left leg.

“For me at that point, I kind of went to college to do gymnastics,” he said of his passion for the sport, noting he had chosen Chico because of its excellent gymnastics program. “I did get a degree and a good education, but I kind of went to college so I could do gymnastics.”

As the incident proved, life can change in an instant.

“I had just turned 20 years old,” he said of the day of the accident his sophomore year of college. 

As demonstrated in the book, the author is not one to quit or use setback as an excuse. He shared that he believes breaking his neck was probably one of the best things to happen to him, noting as a star gymnast his ego was a bit big prior to the injury.

“Within weeks in the hospital, I got my left leg back by visualizing things so I could actually walk again, but still had no arms,” Buckmann shared of his recovery and mobility. “I figured in my own mind if it’s going all the way to my toes, it’s coming back to my arms.”

Living with his teammates following the accident, in the book he shares a touching tribute to the support as well as tough love offered by his teammates that helped him persevere.

“I could swing my arms from my shoulders; they would just flop all over the place. I would struggle and strain to try and move my fingers for months and months and nothing happened,” he recalled.

He would prove to be correct. Following many nights and days that he felt this was it. During that time, there was no physical therapy for injuries of this nature. Leaning toward the conservative side, his medical team offered little by way of hope.

“I just said no, that’s not the plan, doc. That’s not what I’m going to do,” he said of being told he’d remain paralyzed. “I don’t want that.”

An estimated six months after an accident which would leave many devastated, Buckmann regained motion in his arms.

This is just one of many stories told by a gymnast, turned coach, turned author. With close to 47 years as a gymnastics coach, as well as a lifetime of stories, Buckmann’s book “Broken to Brilliant,” is the perfect read for someone looking for inspiration.

“It’s amazing that I wrote a book. My whole life, I was told I was a terrible writer,” the author confessed. “So I kind of shied away from writing.”

After years of being encouraged to share his story in print, however, Buckmann began working on the book in 2018 with the help of a writing coach. 

“She would say if you’re getting stuck, just get up and walk away. Go outside, walk away and then come back and see what happens.

“Like anything, I think being an athlete and being disciplined from training that I just, every time I doubted, I used it as incentive to keep going,” he continued. 

But Buckmann hopes readers come away with more than being entertained by his stories of triumph, he wants them to be inspired and empowered. 

“I would hope that people would gain a new perspective on why things happen in their life,” he said. “I finally figured out and have heard it many times; life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us if we have the right perspective on it.”

He’s hoping they might look back from hindsight and see that certain things that happen lead to what’s next.

“I would like people to connect the dots of their own life and see how everything was working for them the whole entire time, whether they realized it or not,” he noted. 

Buckmann feels he’s living proof of that and that it is demonstrated through his story. 

“It’s amazing all the different people that have come into my life over the years. When you go to different places and meet different people, it’s all for a reason,” he said. “It all ties together and I just want people to not be dictated to by their past. You have 100 percent (control) over your attitude whether you realize it or not. You can either be positive about something or negative about something. Everything is energy.”