It was April 21, 2016 and I was on my way to the airport heading to Las Vegas in support of Phase IV athlete, and Olympic Gold Medalist turned MMA World Champion challenger, Henry Cejudo, when the call that changed my Summer plans came. It was my long time colleague, friend and mentor, the most successful track and field coach of all time, Bobby Kersee, on the phone and I could hear the urgency in his voice right away.
The pretext of the call was that it was an Olympic year and I knew whatever he had to say was important. It turns out Allyson Felix, his latest superstar track athlete following in the foot steps of the many Olympic superstars he has coached including Jackie Joyner Kersee, FloJo, Valerie Brisco and Gail Devers, had been injured in an unfortunate gym accident just 100 days before the Olympic Games in Rio. He was going to pick her up and bring her to my office.
Allyson had come down off the pull up bar and landed on a medicine ball that had only seconds before been pinched between her knees. Just as she was about to dismount the bar after a hard set of pull ups, the medicine ball had slipped out and landed on the floor beneath her. In the second it took for her to realize the loud audible snap she heard as she landed on the ball was her ankle turning violently inward, I know her first thought was the dreams she held for an historic 4th Olympic Games may have just come to an end.
My first thought when I heard this news was why, with 100 days to the Games would anyone have her doing a workout that is more akin to a circus trick than strength and conditioning workout for the World’s Best Sprinter? Why take unnecessary risks with an elite athlete when the same muscle groups could have been trained safely kneeling in front of a pull down bar or on a Graviton machine? But we had no time to entertain my pet peeves regarding out of control Strength and Condition programs.
So when the call came I knew I simple had to turn the car away from LAX airport and head to my office to asses Allyson’s injury ASAP. Once it was obvious that there was no fracture, a reassuring glance toward Coach Kersee released his anxiety and I informed Allyson and her family, who had gathered around her, that we would have her ready in 8 weeks to compete in the US Olympic Trials. Her Olympic Dream was still alive.
How did I know? Because after 35 years working with Bobby Kersee through various potentially season ending injuries suffered by his athletes, I knew I had a partner that would respect and trust my abilities to get the job done and we would work together to do whatever necessary to get her healthy and fit and let her natural talents shine in Rio. I also knew for the next 100 days I would spend most of them with Allyson and any plans I had for the Summer just changed.
There were two-a-day treatments at first, there were months of 7 day treatment weeks at my office, there was an over night trip to NY for a media tour, there was two trips to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and many hours of cross training in the pool at Forster Physical Therapy and innovative track workouts that Bobby Kersee and I devised to get her ready.
Through it all I was surrounded by a great champion and a great coach that allowed me the opportunity to apply the experience garnered over 35 years of treating and training elite athletes to be put to the test. Although I would never want an athlete to suffer such an injury; it was a positive experience for my staff and I to work with Team Kersee, it afforded us the chance to see our science in action. The 3 medals she won in Rio: 2 Gold and one Silver, made all the sacrifice and hard work pay off. Luckily, here in SoCal we have two months of hot Summer months left and I plan to enjoy our time in the sun.