Tragedy and Triumph: Erica McLain

A horrific training injury last year looked as if it would prevent Stanford Olympian Erica McLain ('08) from making a run at the London games. Here she is, though, preparing to give her best triple jump shot at the upcoming US Track and Field Olympic Trials.

Doctors said Erica McLain would never run or jump again after a gruesome training injury at the Stanford track last year. Part of the triple jumper's shattered tibia jutted out of her skin. All of her ankle ligaments were torn, and some sand from the pit where the injury occurred remains in the surgically repaired area today.

"[My ankle] still throws temper tantrums every few days," the 2008 Stanford graduate says.

Neither the anguish of that March 2011 injury nor current discomfort is preventing McLain from making one more valorous run at the London Olympics. For McLain, fifteen months of rehabilitation tribulation will culminate this week at the US Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene. The triple jump qualifying round is June 23, while finals are scheduled for June 25.

McLain, a three-time NCAA Champion and Beijing 2008 participant, will either make her second Olympic team or wrap up her track and field career in peace after her tumultuous battle with a freak injury.

"Several times [this past year], I would be driving, and I would just start crying with uncertainty," she says. "I'm almost at peace. I'm happy that I'm even jumping."

McLain says that her comeback has been partly inspired by her dedication to the young Bay Area track and field community, particularly her position as a coach at Cupertino's Monta Vista High School.

"Injury and coaching has made me go back and focus on proper form," she says.

It has all come with a taxing schedule: 6:30 a.m. daily wake-up calls and evening returns home. McLain's goal is to re-approach the peak form she was displaying at the time of her accident. Ironically, the injury might have occurred because she was too explosive at the time: on a second jump, McLain traveled too far, and half of her foot ended up landing on the concrete curb that separates the sand pit from the track.

The result was simultaneously nauseating and devastating. But it wasn't fatal to her Olympic hopes. Earlier this year, McLain already qualified for the World Indoor team. Now, a successful week in Eugene would put icing on the cake of this torturous journey.

"I'm going to keep pushing through it until the very end," McLain says. "The fat lady hasn't sung yet."

David Lombardi, a TV and radio (95.7 The Game SF) personality in the Bay Area, is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years. You can check out several of his Stanford calls and other writing at www.davidlombardisports.com.

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