Jayne: Patterson won't be felled by bad knee

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

Kara Patterson is thinking positively. She's upbeat. She's focused. She's determined to make lemons out of lemonade.

You don't become an Olympian by being a glass-half-empty kind of person.

Patterson, you see, is the American record-holder in women's javelin. She's a four-time national champion, a two-time participant in the World Championships, and now a two-time Olympian.

So, as the 26-year-old Skyview High School graduate prepares for the start of the London Games in two weeks, she's being positive.

But she's also being coy.

How's the knee?

"It's getting better every day," she said of her left knee, which she hyperextended on July 1 during the Olympic Trials in Eugene.

Did you have an MRI?

"Yeah, but it will be fine. I'm moving forward. It will be fine. When you're presented with an obstacle, it can be really good. The stuff I'm focusing on in training can really help me with my technique."

It sounds like you're holding something back.

"I'm just trying to stay positive."

Let me ask this: Is it something that will require surgery after the Olympics?

"I'd rather not talk about it. I'm focusing on the Olympics."

At this point, it's pertinent to mention something about world-class athletes: They're different from you and me.

World-class athletes can't afford a tinge of doubt, the kind that makes you question your technique or your preparedness or your skill.

For athletes in high-profile sports, that necessary confidence often comes across as cockiness. For athletes in Olympic sports, it often is the thing that gets them through the grueling training between major competitions.

It's not a matter of talking about having confidence; it's a matter of truly, deep down, having an unshakable faith in your body and your talent.

Which is what makes Patterson's injury so excruciating.

Everything was going fine at the Olympic Trials. Through three rounds, Patterson had the three best throws in the competition. But on her fourth attempt, she let her body get a little ahead of her legs, landed awkwardly, and came up limping.

Her spot on the Olympic team was secure; her knee was not.

Which means that, at this point, it's pertinent to mention something about Kara Patterson: She could nice the snarl off of a pit bull.

She is unfailingly positive and unfailingly friendly. Insipid questions from pesky reporters? She answers them thoughtfully and considerately.

"She has a reserved personality, but she's very nice, very cooperative," said Ron Heidenreich, Patterson's coach at Skyview.

Heidenreich was the geometry teacher who convinced Patterson to turn out for track as a high school freshman. Not that he envisioned a future Olympian and American record-holder.

"She's very thankful for everything that has happened to her," Heidenreich said. "I never saw her get down or negative. I think she thinks she's very lucky."

Which is why Patterson is being coy about the knee. She has come too far to let any negative thoughts creep in to her mind.

"I've been really proud of my knee," she said. "It's performing really well. I have a lot of confidence in my training; I think it will be good."

In fact, she's positive.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne