Gymnast Kyle Shewfelt runs marathon of healing on road to Beijing
CALGARY - There are many moments of truth for Kyle Shewfelt these days.
Like the kid playing street hockey thinking "Game 7, Stanley Cup final, this goal wins it," Shewfelt often imagines himself in Beijing on the mat for the men's Olympic gymnastics floor final. "In training, I have to simulate the competition, so I call my coach over and say to myself 'this is the one. It counts. It matters,"' he said.
"I can remember being a little boy in training on the double mini-trampoline and I would say 'this one I have to stick because it's the Olympics.' When you do that and succeed, you learn to trust yourself that in the real situation, that you'll be able to do it."
The reigning Olympic gold medallist in the floor routine, and Canada's first Olympic medallist in the sport, will rely a lot on this mental simulation in Beijing.
When gymnastics starts Aug. 9, he won't have competed internationally for well over a year.
The 26-year-old from Calgary broke both knees and suffered additional ligament damage Aug. 27 while preparing for the 2007 world championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
He mistimed a difficult tumbling pass and hyper-extended his knees.
Shewfelt had surgery in early September to insert a plate and screws and re-attach the ligament in his left knee, and also to insert a screw in his right knee.
That he will be able to perform his full routines at Beijing's National Indoor Stadium is remarkable.
But Shewfelt has come too far to doubt himself now after endless rehabilitation, pain and, once he was healthy enough to train, exhaustion so deep he'd lie down for a nap in front of the fridge.
Shewfelt is the picture of conviction when he says "In Beijing, I plan on being a contender."
He doesn't sound like a man trying to convince himself.
"I'm investing so much of myself into this right now," Shewfelt continued. "I approach each day that I have to have a great day every day and if it's not going to be a great day, I have to make it the best day I can be because I missed out on a lot of training time, a lot of competition time and a lot of time to be in a great mental state.
"I have a lot of belief in myself and my team, so I hope over the next period of time leading up to Beijing, I can just continue to add fuel to that."
Even though Shewfelt was back training, he skipped the Canadian championship in June in his hometown because he felt he wasn't quite ready to compete.
If that decision looks like a gamble, Shewfelt isn't a wide-eyed Olympic rookie.
This will be his third Olympics. He had to contend with a bone bruise in his ankle heading into the 2004 Games.
"Maybe I haven't competed as much as my competitors, but maybe that's going to make me more hungry, or maybe I won't be as tired or burnt out at the Olympics," Shewfelt said.
"I'm getting this inner fire that I don't think a lot of other people are getting because they didn't have two broken legs and they didn't have to sit on their ass for five months. They didn't have to go through what I went through."
He manages his injuries with an anti-inflammatory, ice, acupuncture, massage therapy three times a week and a couple of sessions a week with physiotherapist Susan Massitti.
"I like to joke I'm in rehab more than Amy Winehouse," Shewfelt said.
The Canadian men's gymnastics team finished a best-ever sixth at the 2006 world championship and hung on to qualify for Beijing by finishing 11th without injured Shewfelt in Stuttgart.
Since Shewfelt's gold in Athens, teammates Brandon O'Neill and Nathan Gafuik have won World Cup medals in floor and vault.
Shewfelt's importance in the team event in Beijing is two-fold. He can elevate Canada's total score and his presence injects swagger into the Canadian squad.
"It's huge," O'Neill said. "He can post big scores on his events.
"If we want to make team finals and do well in team finals we need him at his best. If he is, we're in great shape to do what we are going there to do."
Added Gymnastics Canada president Jean Paul Caron: "Even if he's at 80 per cent, he's still Kyle Shewfelt.
"He's our leader so it's important to have him there for the team. Plus, if he's back 100 per cent there's a chance at a medal, so he's key."
Shewfelt was named The Canadian Press male athlete of the year in 2004.
It's common for gymnasts to say they got into the sport because they were hyper kids who launched themselves off the living room furniture.
Shewfelt was one of them, but says he was also a shy child who wanted his mother Nola to take him by the hand and lead him to each apparatus as a youngster.
"It surprises me because I'll talk to anybody now," he said. "I'll go up to random people and talk to them at the grocery store."
Shewfelt isn't ready to say 2008 will be his last Olympic Games, but he's put thought into the classic job-interview question "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
"I want to get married and have some babies and be a dad," he said. "I really want to be a dad. It would be the funnest job on the world."
Post by achebeautiful on Aug 10, 2008 10:14:45 GMT -5
I agree with you very much, Leona.
I hope that you will continue to share inspirational stories of other heroes like him...it is so refreshing in light of all that is going on surrounding these Olympics. The stories you share of these people deserve to be known. Please keep them coming!
This world will continue to war against each other long after these two weeks have passed. I look forward to learning about the young men and women from around the world who have worked so hard for this moment in time.
Let's give them that much. Agreed?
Last Edit: Aug 10, 2008 10:15:56 GMT -5 by achebeautiful
Beijing, China (Sports Network) - The United States men's volleyball team surged to a big lead before beating Venezuela in five sets on Sunday, one day after a fatal knifing attack on a family member of the Olympic head coach.
The U.S. won 25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10, with Clayton Stanley's emphatic slam finishing a match that lasted just over two hours and giving the men a victory in their Summer Games opener.
Ron Larsen was elevated from his job as an assistant to head coach on Sunday, filling in for Hugh McCutcheon, whose father-in-law was fatally stabbed Saturday by a knife-wielding Chinese attacker in downtown Beijing.
Todd Bachman was killed in the attack and his wife, Barbara, was seriously injured. Their daughter, 2004 U.S. Olympic women's indoor volleyball player Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon, was with her parents at the time but was not hurt.
Barbara Bachman suffered serious, life-threatening injuries, including multiple lacerations and stab wounds. After undergoing approximately eight hours of surgery Saturday afternoon and evening, she is in critical but stable condition at a Beijing hospital.
The incident took place on the second story of the Drum Tower, a popular tourist site in downtown Beijing. The assailant committed suicide by throwing himself off the tower.
"As a team, there is nothing more important to us than supporting Mrs. Bachman in her struggle and supporting Hugh and Elisabeth in their grief," team leader Rob Browning said in a prepared statement. "We are absolutely devastated by what has occurred, for their loss and for everything they are going through.
"Hugh has been in touch with the team throughout this tragedy and we're extremely proud of the strength he and Elisabeth are displaying. They know we're here for them in every way possible."
The U.S. men continue Pool A play on Tuesday when they face Italy.
Chinese Canadian Luan Jujie, who won a gold medal in women's foil for China at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, will compete in August's Beijing Games at the age of 50.
BEIJING, April. 30 -- At a time when most people have either achieved their dreams or given up on them, Asia's first Olympic gold-medal winner in fencing, Luan Jujie, will be competing at her fourth Games, aged 50.
It will be a homecoming party for the Chinese icon who now lives in Canada and will be representing the country for the second time at an Olympics.
"My first dream was to win gold at the Olympics in 1984. The second was to compete at an Olympics in my home country. If it wasn't in Bejing I wouldn't have even bothered," Luan says by phone from Edmonton, Canada, where she runs a fencing academy.
Her Olympic qualification has created a buzz that is attracting media from around the world to line up at her door. Literally. The mother of three is packing for a visit to China and her daughter has a hospital appointment. It sounds frantic, but her husband Gu Dajin says this is a typical day in the life of his wife and family.
Born in the capital of Jiangsu province, Nanjing, Luan was one of seven children and trained in high jump and volleyball before taking up fencing at the comparatively late age of 16. Just one year later she was in the national team and taking domestic titles.
She first came to the nation's attention in 1977 at the world junior championships when she removed a blade that snapped off in her left, foil arm. Even so, she continued fencing, winning the silver medal and her heroism was popularized in a book.
"This moved the people, they therefore remembered my name," she says about the incident. "Actually, I wasn't trying to be a hero. As an athlete, if you come across a setback and flinch then you're not a true athlete."
Luan became a legend at China's first summer Olympics in Los Angeles, 1984, when she struck gold. She also competed at the 1988 edition before coaching the national team for 10 years and earning a degree in sports management.
She emigrated to Canada in 1989 and became a citizen five years later, but this did not stop her being celebrated in 1999 as one of China's top 50 sports stars since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Called "Asia's First Foil", her story became a textbook example of how to succeed in sport. A hit movie was made celebrating her life and a stamp bearing her likeness was issued in 2006.
"If she wants something, she doesn't care if others say she cannot achieve it," says Diane Redeker, a manager at Luan's Edmonton club. "She is a wonderful coach. She makes her fencers feel that the sky is the limit."
She obviously thrives on pressure and lunging for goals. After retiring from Olympic competition for 12 years she decided to return to the piste and made it onto the Canadian team for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney - though she was eliminated in the first round.
"I am doing it for the sports," she says. "It doesn't matter which country. If I win I'm happy and if I lose I'm happy. At least I tried. Some people think I'm too old but that just means I have nothing to lose.
"I go crazy trying. I love my country, that's why I tried to get to another Olympics. China has developed so fast, I wanted to come back and say how thankful I was for everything."
She says she also loves her adopted country, Canada. There are no national boundaries in sports, she argues, but admits she wouldn't have had the opportunity to compete for China again, which is more competitive and has good young fencers.
She reckons her forte is patience and technique, allied with a never-say-die attitude. That's why she's still able to beat younger fencers. She says her experience, mental strength and intelligence give her an edge though she is realistic enough to admit her reflexes have slowed and "my physical ability is inferior".
"My body is different from 30 years ago. After I go to sleep and wake up it still hurts after a day of competition or tough training. It doesn't recover like it used to. But my heart is strong and that is everything."
Note: She won her opening match and advanced to the round of 32.
Today in Women's Beach Volleyball Georgian (the country in Europe) duo Andrezza "Rtvelo" Martins/Cristine "Saka" Santanna beat a Russian pair to advance to the next round. They are ranked 22, in the Olympic rankings.