82: Injuries Can Strike at a Horrible Timing – Feat. Tom Wallisch

I really think slopestyle is fascinating because someone like me, who grew up on a small mountain, can still excel. The size of the hill doesn’t matter. All that matters is the kind of jumps and rails you can find or build. – Tom Wallisch

Hi, and welcome back to the star player academy show, episode 82.

This is Marilyn Wo, I help serious athletes like you get your mind back in the game.

First up, nobody likes to be sick, nobody likes to be in pain, be it emotionally or physically because all that pain affects how we position ourselves, how we compete and eventually how we perform to accomplish the results we want.

The worst for me came when my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer and had a 10cm tumour growing in him. In order to give him another chance at life, I decided to donate part of my liver to him. It was not a difficult decision to make on my part.

Besides the fact that he wants to live on, my family and myself also want him to be around for a couple of years more to enjoy life, do what he wants and leave knowing that he has done something great based on his own definition of greatness. But at the same time, it was hard to take a break from the sport I love.

Nobody knows how hard it was for me to take this step, when I was as fit as a fiddle, at the peak of my fitness, healthiest as ever to put myself at risk, in danger of whatever a major surgery might bring, plus the psychological effects of not being able to bounce back to my full potential at training and games ever again after the surgery.

It wasn’t as if I was injured and needed to fix something. I was well and just had the greatest games of my life in the 2008 World Canoe Polo Championships in Edmonton, Canada with my greatest teammates. We did so well at that time, although we didn’t become champions, we had the best performance we could have ever imagined that year.

When I had to go through that major surgery, it was the year when the Asian Canoe Polo Championships was to be held in the middle of the year, that was in 2009, and I did not want to miss out.

You see, it’s not so much of the physical repair and recovery that needed to be on time for the games. The challenge was I had to take a break from training to heal the wounds, and that took a few months. I couldn’t exert myself too much in case the wound surmounted to a hernia, that would have made things worse. So I had to be very careful with what I had to do.

While everyone of my teammates were working hard towards the upcoming Asian Games, I had to do my own mini routines alone at home, good thing I had my boyfriend to support me at that time. My father had to be in the hospital for a longer time to recuperate and not be discharged too early in case of any infection.

So it has been hard in every way for me.

For you, if you do suffer from any pains due to injuries, i understand that the physical pain can then lead to emotional pain as well because when the pain leads to second best results, knowing in your mind that you can do better leads you to feel frustrated with yourself. Most of us will tend to ask ourselves why do I have such injury and if I don’t suffer from it, maybe I can run faster, throw with more power or reach further. We could achieve 101 things.

What I’m trying to say here is this very simple principle, that is, for us being in a competitive environment, we are exposed to all kinds of risks, be it muscle tear or any type of bodily harm. It’s normal. As long as our minds are able to accept that, any pain is easier to get through. There’s no way that anyone is clear of such injuries in such environment. Sports are fun and can develop every facet of our lives, but in order to do that, it has to first sort of tear down our muscles so that new ones can develop.

I thought we get our mindsets straight about this first.

After accepting this, the next thing is how to get yourself back on track to your full potential. If you’ve been able to say serve a tennis ball for up to 200 km per hour, you aren’t able to do the same at practice due to an injury. Ask yourself, which other way can you get the ball across to win the serve?

Same for a soccer player or a water polo player, if you can score by kicking or throwing a ball to the left corner and with that pain in your leg or arm, you realised that it’s not as effective anymore with the injury, ask yourself, can you do the same with another way of scoring?

Point is, be comfortable with your shortcomings and forgive yourself for such imperfections. If you’ve never been injured ever, than you need to work harder, really, it’s normal, but always strike a balance between aiming for results and getting injured. You wouldn’t want to tip the balance to much on either side that makes you lose either way.

Not getting any results in your games and getting injured till you can’t play any game at all for months wouldn’t help. You need not get into that situation.

Taking a bit of time to stay quiet for awhile on your own to relax before trying again is to tip the balance over a little to heal the injury for awhile before trying your hand again to aim at getting results.

Hope I make sense here.

Talking about injuries, what if you are in a sport that has a lot of body contact, or a sport that’s just involves higher accidental risks in nature such as skiing or surfing? I’m not saying they are not safe, just that when you are performing with nature, it’s much harder for you to control the environmental circumstances around you to suit your needs.

Today I want to share with you the story of Tom Wallisch, he was a top slope style skier in America after the 2013 season. But when he took part int he Olympic qualifiers, he did not manage to do good enough to go to the Olympics. In fact, he finished seventh in the finals of the qualifiers and that shocked everyone.

Fans all over the internet wondered why Tom Wallisch wasn’t in the Olympics, and why didn’t he do as well like he did in the past?

Although there shouldn’t be any excuse for such a great athlete, Tom had a stumbling block. He had been skiing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, what’s also known as ACL when he had a bad crash in New Zealand.

Like any other athlete with that innate DNA, even knowing from doctors that such injury might harm him for life, he wanted to try for the Olympics.

Here’s what he said: ”
“It’s just not something everybody can do, but this is the year I wanted to go out there and try to perform on that world stage and try to go to the Olympics and showcase our sport and be a part of that first season. “There’s a lot of risk and a lot of difficulties involved, but more than anything I wanted to try. I wanted to try to ski this season.”

You may wish to see more of what happened, I will leave the video in the show notes, go straight to starplayeracademy.com/82 to see Tom Wallisch video replay of how he landed. He was still doing very well, probably trying to do all he can as usual yet being disturbed by the pain.

This led many people wonder what if he had both ACLs primed for the race? Would he end up qualifying for the Olympics?

So, it is heartbreaking to see that he did not make it to the Olympics in Sochi. You may have such situation too due to your injuries or health issues. Same for me, I had to struggle to overcome my doubts to be able to qualify for the National team to be part of the Asian Champs in 2009.

No matter what pain that you are struggling with, always tell yourself like what Tom Wallisch did, that you just want to be out there competing and doing what you do best at your highest level.

Some of you especially in team sports may be wondering, what if you are not able to do your best to contribute as well to the team as you could have done? You may be thinking that if you didn’t get involved, someone who is sort of more able could have taken your place and had that chance to be in the game.

Yes, indeed I hear you, I was from a team sport and I did struggled with this too before putting myself to the test of being qualified for the games. But let’s go back to Tom’s situation, not many people knew he had any injury in the first place to start with. Same thing in your situation, you may not know who within your team is suffering from any injury too.

We are all in this same kind of environment because we feel like it’s in our blood, as long as you are accountable to your decision to be part of the team, stay committed to what you say you are going to do, take care of your own injury while sticking to your values, your performance will honour you.

Sometimes you get injured while at training, there are times you face a situation out of training that puts you at risk, such as my case of donating my liver. Whatever it is, there really isn’t any secret to getting above this barrier to the other side. We need to sort of find a way to bring this barrier down lower to our level sometimes.

So for today’s class, Lesson one is this:
For Tom Wallisch, he just wanted to try, knowing he may not be qualified. I’m sure if it happened to me, I would have love to shout out to the world that “I am injured, so cut me some slack”. It could have been a pride issue for him not to be involved at all.

But I guess the mindset here is this, what if he made it and qualified? He could have qualified and that could have allowed him to carry on with this dream. If he didn’t try, he definitely wouldn’t even make it.

Your injury may need a break for you to heal, it’s true and I don’t encourage you to harm it any further. But weigh your odds, because it really depends on how bad your injury is hitting on you.

Also, I know the psychology of knowing that taking a break would mean having to put a lot of practice into getting back the level you used to have.

But StarPlayers, always remember what’s possible and best for yourself. Once you have a tendency to compare with all the other athletes out there vying for that position in your team, it’s not going to make your time fulfilling even if you push through your pain to be in the team.

That reason of you qualifying and making it affects how you feel at the end of it all, whether you qualified, won or lost. It may be a horrible timing, same for a great skier like Tom Wallisch, but there’s a reason for that. You do push through but push for the reason to be where you want to be, not to be afraid of someone taking over your place, also not to give up because you want someone better to take your place. It all has to start with you.

When you’ve decided to take on that challenge to be part of the game, then you need a plan and really act on it with care.

When I had my surgery, it was painful, but I was lucky I had a good 6 to 9 months of healing time, so I took a good break without training for about 2 to 3 months and slowly managed to get back to taking long walks, then move on to jogging, then running faster and further, then on to weights and then down onto that water. It’s simple step by step progression based on the time you have and the extent of your injury.

So what is going on with Tom Wallisch right now? He managed to clinch the top qualifying spot for this year’s Winter X games, and on top of that, he is very much happy into filming for the “Good Company” ski film series.

As for Lesson 2: never let the pain of your injury decide what you want to do. Yes, the extent of it does affect your actions. But taking a break to decide doesn’t make you worse off at all. You may need a day off or even a year. You are not quitting on yourself or your team, you are just healing so that you can be your best self.

If there’s pain and you have sort of that motivation and stamina to be present at training, just go. Doctors may say no, but just be there and do something to see where the pain takes you. I feel so bad telling you to do this cause I’m no doctor and you really have to make responsible decisions for yourself in this case. So, go for what you desire, but be ready for the pain, that’s all you need to know.

Now back to you, what are you struggling right now? I want to hear it, go to starplayeracademy.com/ask, and leave your answers to the questions there and I will respond to you as quickly as I can.

With that, we have come to the end of today’s episode.

Before you go, let me leave you a quote by Tom Wallisch, he said, “I really think slopestyle is fascinating because someone like me, who grew up on a small mountain, can still excel. The size of the hill doesn’t matter. All that matters is the kind of jumps and rails you can find or build.”

Thank you all for joining me today. And till tomorrow.

I look forward to see you become a StarPlayer.

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