Kara Winger knows she has one more Olympics in her.
Why else would the already three-time Olympian fight so hard to get back after a second knee surgery?
“This whole year after the injury, I knew I had just enough time to feel like myself again before the (Olympic) trials,” Winger said last week while returning to her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., after a workout at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. “I’m not saying I’m 100 percent, but like 90 percent, and that’s pretty good.”
The former Vancouver resident and graduate of Skyview High School will start her attempt to make the Tokyo Games in the women’s javelin on Friday afternoon at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
The qualifying round begins at 1 p.m. Friday, and the top 12 from qualifying move on to the finals, which begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The top three finishers, who have also achieved the Olympic standard, will be going to Tokyo.
Because of the pandemic, athletes’ results were frozen back to May 1, 2019 and Winger met the Olympic standard of 210 feet with her gold-medal throw of 213 feet at the Pan American Games in Peru back on Aug. 9, 2019.
She also threw 211-5 in her 2020 opener at a low-key event in Idaho. It was at that August competition she torn her ACL for a second time. The first time was at the Olympic Trials leading up to the 2012 Games in London.
“I’m very good at recovering from injuries,” she said. “When looking at a long process, it’s the only thing to focus on. I know how to work hard and recognize the little victories. ACL surgery sucks. I expected the worst but got the best.”
Fast forward to June 2021 and Winger is in Eugene with just one competition under her belt, a USA Track and Field Throws Fest in Tucson, Ariz., just short of nine months after her knee surgery. And she placed fourth with a throw of 200 feet. She posted on Instagram she had no expectations going into that meet.
After those results, Winger posted: “Thrilled with the start. I’m absolutely amazed by this process so far, and very excited to get back to work.”
Last week she said her results at the end of May were “incredibly encouraging. The distance is there.”
Winger is very familiar with Hayward Field. Well, the old version anyway, having competed in the Olympic Trials there in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Now, the renovated version of Hayward awaits.
“I heard that when you’re looking for it, you see the history,” she said. “I have had such a mixed experience with Hayward. I made all three of my Olympics there, my first knee injury, had the stadium record there … so I’m excited to have a different experience.”
She will have her husband Russ along with her parents, Bruce and Rona Patterson, and a few close Skyview High friends in the stands at Hayward Field. Unfortunately, due to Japan’s pandemic restrictions on foreign fans, her family and friends won’t be making a trip to Tokyo.
Winger said her parents were all booked to go to Tokyo in 2020 before the pandemic postponed the Games until this year.
“They have been to every Olympic Games I’ve competed in,” Winger said. “But it’s the support that matters.”
No matter how far away.