Sport stars who broke the pain barrier

You don’t have to be a hulking beefcake who eats small horses for breakfast to grit your teeth through extreme pain.

5. One more time

American gymnast Kerri Strug, all 4ft 8ins of her, famously had to compete a second vault despite injuring her ankle, to beat Russia – obviously – and win gold for her team at the Atlanta Olympics. Or did she?

As it happens, she didn’t actually need to compete this second vault as the Americans had already won without it but she was down for two vaults and two vaults she would do.

On completing the vault, Strug practically landed on one foot, presented to the judges, collapsed to the floor and crawled off the mat. Her coach lifted her up in a giant bear hug and a star-spangled poppet was born.

4. Wellington warrior

So what you’d do if you’d had a horrendous smash while out training on your bike, taken off a layer of skin, damaged your pectoral muscle and busted your hip is take place in the ironman world championships not two weeks later, right? Oh, you wouldn’t…

Taking on the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and concluding with a marathon in Hawaii’s roaring heat GB’s Chrissie Wellington did just that, and won.

“It was a complete disaster, but it was my biggest success,” says Chrissie. “Throughout that race it was, ‘Keep your head, keep your head, keep your head, keep your head,’ and all I could do was to stay in the moment, not panic and just fill every minute with trying to eke everything out of myself,” she told

3. Face off

Wallop. Getting hit by a stick or ball during a field hockey game is not for the faint-hearted but when it happens in the middle of an Olympic group match in your home country, you’re going to do all you can to get out there playing again.

This is exactly what Team GB captain Kate Walsh did during the summer of 2012.

Three days after breaking her face and having had an operation to repair her busted chops she was back playing in a fetching Phantom-of-the-Opera style mask.

The injury caused problems with Walsh trying to get through security when she returned to the Olympic village as the titanium plate inserted in her face set off the security scanners.

“This fracture should have put her out of action for a month,” explained surgeon Simon Holmes to The Docklands and East London Advertiser.

“It required three plates, 12 screws, and one temporary wire. It’s testament to Kate that it didn’t put her out of the Olympics – the girl has true grit.”

2. Triumph and tragedy

It was a tragedy two years after winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics that made Australian snowboarder Torah Bright reflect that competing so soon after three concussions and a dislocated jaw two months prior to the Games was probably unwise.

Sure, the stories at the time all reflected triumph over adversity but the shock death of freestyle skier Sarah Burke due to a similar injury two years later made many in the sport take stock, including Bright.

1. Digit spirit

Don’t even begin to ask  me how I came across this one… Seventeen-year-old cowgirl, you heard, Whitney Hall lost part of her finger during a prank with friends.

Despite losing the top of her index finger on the left hand from below the nail up and being advised by the doctor to rest up, Hall took part in the International Finals Youth Rodeo.

Concerned that this was the hand she used to ‘rope’ the horses in the competition she nevertheless bandaged up the hand, adapted her technique and off she went. After all, she said, my finger’s not hurt that bad.

Author: Jo Gunston

Roving blogging superfan shares behind the scenes stories of her sports life and the best of those from like-minded souls.

Share This Post On
468 ad
Share This