Greg Jayne: Crush of life hasn't held back Patterson

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

Her biography from the past year could be a primer for the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

There was a major injury, as Kara Patterson tore her anterior cruciate ligament and underwent surgery.

And a change of residence, from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., to the one in Colorado Springs, Colo.

And a return to school, with the start of an MBA program through DeVry's Keller Graduate School of Management.

And, oh yeah, an outstanding personal achievement, as she competed in the Olympics for the second time.

All of those experiences rate on the noted Holmes-Rahe scale, the one that links major life events to the likelihood of illness and has become a staple of psychology courses.

So it would be understandable if Patterson, a 26-year-old graduate of Skyview High School and Purdue University, were buckling under the weight of the world. It would be understandable if the American record-holder in women's javelin was being dogged by doubts as she works to return to the top of her sport with a reconstructed left knee.

Wouldn't it?

"It's really good," Patterson said last week as she took an hour away from family time during a trip back home. "It's awesome. I've always really enjoyed rehab."

And so, as Patterson … wait, what?

She enjoys rehab? She enjoys the endless hours of knee exercises and leg-strengthening work and sweating without touching the tools of her trade?

Patterson recalled her recovery from a back injury a few years ago: "We did so many core-strengthening exercises; I love, love, love those."

Sigh! Elite athletes really are different from you and me. But enough about our shortcomings.

Patterson finally picked up a javelin last week, for the first time since her surgery last Sept. 26. Actually for the first time since the London Olympics last August.

It was in London that she competed with an ACL that had been torn on her final throw at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. It was in London that she had perhaps her most fulfilling victory, despite finishing 31st in her event.

"I know of somebody else who would have gone to London despite a major injury," she said. "You can't give up that opportunity. That's the mind set of someone who has worked four years to make the Olympics.

"I was really happy that A) I had done it and B) that it was over. I was worried people wouldn't understand or would wonder why I was going to London. It was great to have an outpouring of support. I was kind of disappointed that I didn't throw better, and people were like, 'Kara, you're ridiculous.' "

Ridiculous, indeed. And driven and dedicated and … well, happy.

In December, Patterson signed a new four-year contract with sponsor Asics. Now she is targeting the U.S. championships in late June in Des Moines, Iowa, for her likely return to competition. It's there that she will hope to qualify for her third World Championship meet.

"I learned a lot from it," she said about competing in London. "I learned how strong I can be. I am so happy with my experience."

Life changes? Stress? Peace of mind? If Patterson's not careful she just might break that Holmes-Rahe scale.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or online at greg.jayne@columbian.com. Follow him in Twitter: @col_gjayne