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Wilson Continues Amazing Comeback

June 25, 2004|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

The clock and the calendar conspire to say Blaine Wilson shouldn't be able to do this.

He will turn 30 before the Olympics begin, but that is nothing next to the injury he suffered Feb. 28, when he tore his left biceps tendon from the bone during a rings routine at the American Cup in New York.

That could have been the end of his hopes of making his third Olympic team.

Yet there he was Thursday night at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials at the Arrowhead Pond -- not only competing, but in fifth place after the preliminaries.

He proved his mettle on the very first rotation.

His routine on the rings -- by far the most challenging apparatus for someone who underwent surgery on his arm less than four months ago -- was solid enough to earn a 9.45.

To former teammate John Roethlisberger, it was "herculean" -- a performance he had not been sure he would see from Wilson the rest of his career.

To Wilson, a crowd favorite all night, it was more matter of fact.

"I wasn't so worried about the rings," he said, even though he performed a full routine on the rings for the first time since his injury. "Everybody else was -- coaches, parents. I expected it to be a little rough, and it was."

He knows a little bit about rough patches.

"Any adversity you have in your life makes you the person you are today," he said. "If everything went smoothly, there'd be no adventure in life."

The twists in his life since the Sydney Olympics have gone beyond adventure.

In 2001, his wife, Makare -- a pro beach volleyball player -- gave birth to a stillborn son.

"There was a blood clot between the placenta and the uterine wall, and that's basically what caused the whole thing," Wilson said.

Five months later, Makare became pregnant again, and on Oct. 4, 2002, the couple welcomed a daughter named Wakaya.

"After an island in Fiji, where my wife's from," Wilson said.

"Obviously, getting married, having a child, those are two things I looked forward to. At the same time, the loss of a child and three surgeries, that's something that you just have to deal with.

"Things happen for a reason. I believe that happened so my wife and I could move closer together as a couple. I believe there's a reason for everything that happens in life. You have to deal with it and move forward once again."

Now he is trying to make the final step to the Olympics one last time.

A selection system that can either be considered confounding or forgiving might help.

Because he withdrew from the U.S. championships because of the injury, Wilson can claim one of the six spots on the Olympic team if he finishes in the top two in these trials, which conclude Saturday for the men. (Other competitors will be judged on 40% of their U.S. championships score and 60% from the trials.)

If he doesn't finish in the top two, Wilson will be like the others, hoping the selection committee will see fit to reward him with one of four at-large spots.

Wilson said he believed he has earned the benefit of the doubt, and is confident he will be stronger and sharper before the Athens Games in August.

"But if I can't contribute to this team, then put somebody else on the team that can contribute," he said.

Dan Gill, eight years Wilson's junior, uses the word so many others do to describe Wilson's comeback.

"It's amazing," he said. "Anyone in this room should say the same thing: Never count out Blaine Wilson."

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