Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Toronto Star Article - Tuesday January 29, 2008

Check out the article below courtesy of Randy Starkman and the Toronto Star.

Here is a link to the original version with a photo as well: http://www.thestar.com/article/298272



TheStar.com Sports Long road to Beijing for Canada's Shewfelt

Long road to Beijing for Canada's Shewfelt

Shewfelt tries to keep his eye on the Olympics as he struggles to recover from two broken legs

Jan 29, 2008 04:30 AM Randy Starkman SPORTS REPORTER

It's not a blog as much as it is therapy for Kyle Shewfelt.

The Olympic champion gymnast is baring his soul on the Internet as few athletes have as he endures a physically and mentally grueling comeback from two broken legs to try get ready for the Beijing Games in August.

Here are a few excerpts from a particularly heartfelt entry earlier this month:

"On the inside I feel like I am clawing away and just trying to survive."

"I am caught in a vicious circle and I feel like I am spinning a little out of control. I don't know if (seven) months is enough."

"It freaks me out a little bit to think that at the end of all of this hard work, sacrifice and struggle that it might not work out the way that I and everyone else wants it to."

Shewfelt said he's not using his blog (kyleshewfelt.blogspot.com) to keep people informed.

"It's more for me actually," he said yesterday from Calgary. "It's my way of getting that stuff out. I'm going through a lot right now. It's an emotional and physical and mental battle that I'm fighting. I feel sometimes when I can write things down and get them in front of me, then I can read them and I can reflect and get a better perspective rather than just be constantly in the turmoil of it all."

These are tough days for Shewfelt, a constant and painful grind since that day last August when he landed stiff legged on a layout Arabian double front on floor exercise and heard a sickening crunch.

He was in Germany, training for the world championships a week before the event, he was in the best shape of his life and he tried to convince himself it was something he could walk off. He hobbled out of the gym on crutches, but told his teammates he'd be back.

He was true to his word, only he returned in a wheelchair to cheer them on as against all odds they qualified Canada in the men's event for Beijing with an 11th-place finish.

It turned out he'd fractured the top of the tibia in both legs. He has one screw in his right leg (that's the good one). He needed a plate and two screws in the left, as well as a repair job on a ligament that was damaged, and a bone that was detached from the side of knee. (Hence the crunching sound.)

The surgeon didn't give Shewfelt a timeline; he just told him to refrain from anything causing extreme pain.

The days are long and the progress is minuscule, especially for an athlete with one eye on the calendar as Beijing approaches quickly

"You just get exhausted, emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted," said the 25-year-old from Calgary. "I try to make them all good days, but it's impossible. Some days are just really, really crappy."

Shewfelt had wanted to be 100 per cent by the end of this month, but that turned out to be totally unrealistic. He can do some tumbling and dismounts from the high bar, but he can't run full speed on the floor or do any vaults. His goal now is to do that by the end of March.

While it's clear from his blog that he's felt desperate at times, he refuses to give up the dream.

"I've always been the type of person who wants to exceed my own limits," said Shewfelt, who won gold on the floor in 2004 in Athens. "I want to look back in July or August and know that I did everything, absolutely everything, that I could possibly do. ... I don't want to look back and have any regrets and say `Oh, I could have worked harder.'"


I really like this article. Randy is an amazing writer and huge supporter of amateur sport in Canada. Thanks Randy!

If there are any new viewers to my blog, Welcome and Enjoy!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

I LOVE Thursdays!

Thursdays have consistently been my best day for the past few weeks.

(Here is that dismount I promised...filmed on Thursday)

Below are a couple more video's of me doing my Def on highbar (a release move which is a back flip off of the bar with a one and a half twist...and I am supposed to catch the bar at the end) on THURSDAY as well.

(Also, Please disregard my teammate Nathan's singing commentary...although it is pretty funny!).

The first vid was actually the first Def that I have done since my injury. It felt so weird! I was nervous and ended up about 10 feet from the bar! Safety first. I remembered how to do the skill immediately after this first one, but it takes some time to build up the trust in myself and my release time in order to come closer to the bar. I think release moves, particularly this skill, are a great way to measure progress in getting back into shape and into full-on gymnastics mode. Eventually I will be catching this skill more than I miss it, but for now I need to just be consistent and bring it in a little closer everyday. From past experience, it takes me a month or 2 to get it back so that it feels natural and I am not scared of smashing my teeth out on the bar! Honestly, I think of that sometimes. But when the big competitions come; I always trust that I will put the bar right into my hands.

Next time you see a gymnastics competition on TV, remember that every guy who does a release move on high bar started out doing it 10 feet away!

Hopefully this coming week includes 2 Thursdays!


Friday, January 18, 2008

Do I Suffer From Body Bipolarism?

Awesome day on Thursday, craptastic day Friday.

I couldn't even do one back handspring.

Maybe I did too much the day before?

This puts me in an awkward position. Do I hold off a bit and have steady progress each day or do I take a huge gain one day and suffer the next?

I literally could not do anything today. I was one sore gymnast! It didn't feel like muscle pain though. I can work through that...in fact, I kind of like it when my muscles hurt because I know that I earned that pain! No, today was more like my body was telling me that maybe I am not quite ready to be doing dismounts and landing them on my feet!

Do they have a medication for this...I can just hear the ad:

"Do you suffer from joint, tendon and bone pain? Did you feel fantastic yesterday, but like crap today? When you walked down the stairs this morning did you feel like your body was going to explode? This up and down cycle of physical pain has now been diagnosed as body bipolarism. Lucky for you, the FDA has approved a new "supplement" called idontwanttofeellikeshitanymoreicillin that can help. Call 1-888-555-OUCH for your free trial sample today!"

Might be a hard sell, but I'm sure there would be a few takers...

On a more serious note, I can't explain the frustration. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. It's like that game, 'Red light, Green light', you play when you're a kid. Doesn't the universe know that I am not being greedy. I am just asking for a little momentum.

I think the worst part about having one great day and then one awful day is the guilt I feel. I should be able to do at least what I did the day before. Why didn't I push myself? Why did I succumb to the negativity? Could I have done something to make it less painful? Was I overreacting?

I am correcting this problem right now...

On Sunday I am going to reach the same heights that I achieved on Thursday and then I am going to surpass those on Monday.

I am going to smile and be positive.

Breathe in and out. Relax...and keep it simple stupid! (I should really be a Yogi or something!)


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Awesome Day!

Today Rocked! I was superman. I felt the best I have felt during this entire recovery process. I was willing to push myself further than I have in a long time. I felt like today was the day I have been waiting for.

On floor I did a backspring series. I started with 1, then I did 2 and then I got the guts up to push for 4 (as shown in the vid below). I have been doing backspring series since I was 7. I have always done tons of them and they have always been the one thing that gets me into great tumbling shape. Sometimes I do 10 series, all ending with a different big skill at the end (full-in, double double, double layout...not quite there yet tough). I believe backspring series are essential to becoming a good tumbler. They help you get a feeling for your body and for varying your speed. In gymnastics, you have to know how to speed up and slow down, you have to know how to make skills longer or shorter and you have to know how to deal with all of those little black dots that appear when you go too fast! (I definitely had those!)

After my super progress on floor, I went to highbar. I swung around and kind of felt like I knew what was going on. I guess a little bit each day really does lead to something...crazy how that works! After swinging for a while, I got really bored of plain swing half turns and such (or I got really gutsy...) and I decided that I was going to do a dismount. That's right, A DISMOUNT! My heart was pumping, my palms were sweaty, I needed Tony to stand in with a mat, but I got up on the bar, swung a couple of fast giants and busted out a double layout with a full twist (should have gotten that one on video..next time). I had a big mat in on top of the resi-pit, but I landed it. My skinny little legs were able to absorb a landing! Hell yeah! I was so friggin' pumped that I couldn't stop smiling. Not only had I pushed myself way further than I had intended to on the day, but I had actually done something that was pretty close to high level gymnastics.

Who's on the comeback trail?

That would be me.

Today was one of those days when I felt like it was all going to work out. I could picture myself getting all of my skills and routines back in no time. I was basically pain free (except of course for that damn burning in the back of my left hamstring, but I am coming to terms with the fact that that might be there forever!). I can't even begin to explain how awesome it felt to be able to actually do some of the things that I would normally be able to do, before the accident. It felt like a huge victory, a giant leap forward and an instant flood of confidence.

I want to continue to have days like this.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Roundoff Backspring!

Last week I made some progress. Here is a video of me in the gym doing a round off back handspring on the floor, with a couple of soft mats for extra protection. Better safe than sorry.

This gave me a huge boost in confidence. It felt so great to be able to turn my body around and feel somewhat like a gymnast again. There was a bit of pain, but it wasn't excrutiating. Progress is progress. I LOVE progress!

Check out the double front pike with a 1/2 out below!


Friday, January 11, 2008

Feeling Better

I have received a lot of concerned emails from family and friends since my last post. Messages of encouragement and support overflowed. All I can say is thank you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for trying to understand.

I guess what it all boils down to is that I had a really bad week last week. This is a very daunting task and as time goes by I feel more and more pressure to get healed fast and to get back into top form.

I have worked some things out this past week though. I have made some progress and I am starting to feel better, not amazing, but better. I have been trying to be positive and believe that great things will indeed happen.

I decided that I am not going to do myself any justice by being down. I want to be the best version of myself.

All I can do is to do everything that I can. I am doing that and I am trusting that it will be enough.

And you know what? At the end of it all, if it doesn't work out the way I want it to then I can look back and have absolutely no regrets. Although it would be incredible to stand on top of that podium again (and I think about that possibility often), I will forever be an Olympic Champion and I am defining myself more as a person now by my actions than I am defining myself as an athlete. I want to enjoy this next 7 months. I think I have a much better chance of being successful if I am content and enjoying the process!


Friday, January 04, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

This morning at weights I had an "Ah hah" moment. I realized that I have felt so defeated lately because I have been stuck in the middle of 'really bad' and 'kinda good' for way too long.

When I first started making progress; every step was motivating. The progress was small, but compared to being at home in a wheel chair, it was phenomenal. As each day passed I could walk better and I started to feel more and more like my old self again.

Now, I have been stuck in a rut for more than a month where it feels like no matter how hard I work and how diligent I am (believe me, I have been busting my butt), the progress is not coming. I want to find that one exercise or one thought that will propel me to the next level of rehab. I am sick of not being able to squat all the way down because I know that I need to have a full range of motion in order to gain back my maximum strength. I am tired of not being able to lay on my stomach and lift my heel to my butt. I am frustrated with being frustrated!

When I walk down the hall you would have never known that I injured myself. I have no limp and my scars are slowly fading. On the outside everything looks pretty normal, almost like I have regained my form entirely. In fact, I have had many people ask me if I am back training and getting ready for Beijing. I wish. On the inside I feel like I am clawing away and just trying to survive. I am spending endless hours in the gym, the weight room and in the physio clinic, but the progress is so slow. I have always been the type of person who gets fed up and finds a way to make it work, but in this situation I can't take that approach. I have to listen to my body. It is telling me important things. Obviously I would be doing everything I want to if I could. I guess I sometimes feel like I am giving up because I am not making progress and therefore I am not pushing myself hard enough.

I am caught in a vicious circle and I feel like I am spinning a little out of control. I don't know if 7 months is enough. First, I need to regain my mobility and strength. Then I need to regain my gymnastic shape and then I have to regain all of my skills and get into routine shape. On top of it all I need to add difficulty in order to challenge for the Olympic title. That's a lot to accomplish in a little amount of time. It freaks me out a little bit to think that at the end of all of this hard work, sacrifice and struggle that it might not work out the way that I and everyone else wants it to. That's a really scary thought, and I don't want to think it, but I have to be realistic.

I have been experiencing a lot of self doubt and a huge lack of self confidence lately. I am usually pretty sure of myself and my actions, but lately that hasn't been the case. I think that this has a lot to do with the fact that I haven't been able to train hard or compete...hell, I wouldn't even consider myself an Elite gymnast right now.

I have been doing gymnastics for 20 years of my life. 20 years is a long time. I have defined myself a lot based on how I do in gymnastics. When I apply myself to training I see the progress and the benefit. I love the feeling of getting into shape and knowing that something is a thousand times easier than it was before because of the hard work that I put in. It's like the beautiful life quote says, " There aren't any shortcuts to tomorrow. You have to make your own way." I have been feeling like a lot less of a person lately because I no longer feel like myself.

When one thing in your life begins to feel a little helpless it starts to affect other areas of your life, especially if it's something as important to a person as gymnastics is to me. I have noticed that the various relationships in my life have started to take a turn in a direction that is just not acceptable. I have been a little too quick to snap at those I love. I have been a little unappreciative to those who are trying to help me. I have shut down when it comes to talking about how I am feeling.

I am starting to feel a little desperate. As each day passes that doesn't have noticeable progress; I feel like I have lost an important opportunity to advance and therefore I failed. Right now, I need to see improvements each and every day to keep me feeling like I am gaining momentum in overcoming this obstacle.

This obstacle is definitely turning out to be the most intense and trying one in my life thus far.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Was this a sign of things to come? I'm pretty sure it was

Over the Christmas break, I went swimming. I had a crazy experience with jumping into the pool.

I stood on the deck and was just about ready to plunge in when a voice in the back of my head suddenly told me to freeze. I wouldn't jump in feet first.

My heart started to pound and I became really anxious and frustrated. It was almost an instant negative reaction and it made me really upset. I wondered if this was a sign of things to come.

If I am not able to jump into a pool of water feet first then how in the world am I going to be able to do a double twisting double layout off of the highbar and absorb the landing? How am I going to be able to do a whip back, punch into a 2 and a half twist and then punch again into another bounding element? How am I going to run down the vault runway at full speed and slam into the beat board and flip over the table?

I started to have nightmares. I dreamt about doing a dismount off of rings and then thinking of the landing and bailing out halfway through and landing on my head.

Apparently I have some issues that I need to deal with. I know that the only way that I can overcome these negative thoughts is to start landing again, but I am unfortunately not there yet.

Yesterday in the gym I did small jumps off of a box and landed on the floor. My right knee and leg are feeling pretty strong, but my left side is still weak and I don't trust it. I hate having these feelings at a time like this because I can't just go into the gym and prove to myself that it's all in my head. Because it's not. It's more than just a mental block...it's physical too and it is still going to take time and much work to overcome. Who would have thought that 8 months before the Olympic Games I would be having a hard time doing things you learn in kindergym?

I guess what I have to do is just continue to strengthen and to keep on jumping from small heights. The confidence will come, I know it will, but how fast is the question. I hope faster than I feel it will because I would really like to see a breakthrough soon.


ps- On the bright side, after having an internal argument with myself that I am sure was most embarrassing from the outside, I jumped into that water. I did overcome my fear, but man, did it ever take some convincing.