Beating Cancer and Training Through Injury for the Olympic Trials: Our Interview With Athlete Adriane Wilson

I began competing in sports at an early age with softball and golf, but I found my passion for training and throwing at Ashland University in Ohio. I earned seven NCAA Div. II National titles, and six Runner Up honors in the shot put, discus, hammer and 20lb. indoor weight throw. I’m proud to still own the NCAA Div. II National Records in the indoor and outdoor shot put. Training at the university level helped prepare me to continue my athletics at the Olympic level. My personal record in the shot put is 18.29m and just over 58m in the discus. I have competed and made the final rounds of three different US Olympic Trials (2004, 2008, and 2012) and stayed in the top ten US female shot putters for over ten years.

After my first amateur game in Arizona in 2008, I was hooked on the Heavy Events. In the following years as a Heavy Events competitor, I qualified for Women’s World Championships and earned 4 World titles in the Scottish Highland Games (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013). I also broke the world record in the 28lb. weight for distance at 53’4″. 

In August 2013, I blew out my knee competing in Scotland for my first Highlander competition. Similar to the Highland Games, a Highlander includes strength events, like the Farmer’s Walk and Atlas Stones in addition to the traditional throwing events. When I was throwing the heavyweight, I got too close. My foot got caught in the wooden trig and was locked in place, but my knee just kept turning. I was able to rub my knee and walk away – and still finished in fourth place.

I had suffered my first major injury and required knee surgery – full reconstruction of the ACL, with some cleanup of the meniscus. The surgeon found the usual destruction of years of training in the knee, so I spent 2014 rehabbing and zeroing in on my technique. The owner of my gym put together a return-to-play program for me. I was there every day, to make sure I was functionally balanced. Technique is important – natural strength will only take you so far.

The biggest part of my recovery was making sure I was controlling inflammation. I had quite a bit of inflammation in my knee from the surgery. To help treat that inflammation, I used my own STIM machine and ultrasound. I used many methods to help minimize inflammation with my diet and recovery, since treating inflammation was now part of my daily routine. My efforts became amplified with injury.

I tried Play Again on a recommendation from my friend and strength athlete Therese Foy, shortly after I was cleared to train – right before my first competition in Houston in 2014. I was blown away. I can still remember how fantastic I felt. My performance was outstanding for my first game back. But about two weeks after I stopped taking it, I felt the familiar aches and pains again.

Play Again makes me feel wonderful. My joints feel lubricated and great all over. I take it every day – and it’s something I feel quickly. I know when I’m not taking it. I can feel the difference. Play Again is the first product where I have experienced immediate relief – and it was really surprising.

At 34 (I turn 35 in May), I am preparing for the Highland Games World Championships the third week of March. I’ve got about 8 weeks until I compete in Phoenix to recapture my World Championship title.

During the long season in 2015, I would like to increase my back squat over 350 pounds and deadlift over 400 pounds. I would like to get back over 250 on my bench press. My biggest challenge is to improve my Olympic lifts cleaning over 100kg and 80kg in the snatch. Some of these are numbers I’ve hit before in my younger years – so I will feel like my training is really back on track.

June 2016 are the Olympic Trials. It has been in the back of mind to switch gears and focus my training for the Trials during 2015. It’s been years since I’ve really concentrated on the shot put event – my first love. I threw last week, and didn’t feel terrible. I’m keeping my mind open for the fact that next year is one more chance that I could reach my goal of finally making the Olympic Team. I have a great coach who has given me a few things to prepare my fitness level before we switch gears.

I still feel great and I still feel strong. My passion for the sport has not gone away after all these years. In 2003, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and endured 6 months of chemotherapy. I battled and won my fight against cancer and still finished in the top five at the 2004 US Olympic Trials in the shot put. I also realize I am no longer 24, 28, or 32 years old – so my body will not recover as quickly as my younger years. Play Again will be part of my everyday routine to complement the heavy lifting, long throwing sessions and recovery methods.

And I say, if you can make an Olympic team at 41, I know I can do it at 36.

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