How Karen Chen conquered spondylolisthesis and injuries to reach Olympic pinnacle!– OnMyWay Mobile App User News

How Karen Chen conquered spondylolisthesis and injuries to reach Olympic pinnacle

‘Unpredictable.’ Karen Chen, the US champion skater who showcased a gutsy performance during the 2017 World Championships says what happens on the ice is always unpredictable. Her coach, Tammy Gambill who has been training and conditioning Chen since 2013, says, “That’s the million-dollar question. She’s got it in her. I’m just waiting for her to put it all together.”

During the Grand Prix season in the fall, Chen faced an injury and decided to sit it out against Russia. This year, at the SAP Center at San Jose, Chen finished third in the short program.

Potentially, she was just a berth away to the Pyeongchang Games this month, in February. She was a mere four and a half minutes away, but as the 18-year old champ says, it was unpredictable. Chen who made the Olympic team almost four years ago hopes to calm her mind and graciously continue on the path of her inspiration, the retired skating champ Polina Edmunds.

Gambill, Chen’s coach always inculcates the idea that it is okay to not be perfect all the time. He constantly tries to temper her internal pressure, says, “But she makes one little mistake and she’s so mad at herself,” the coach said. “That gets in her way.” On the other hand, Chen’s mother Hsui-Hui Tseng considers her daughter’s health the biggest priority. Tseng says, “Every time I say to her, ‘Give me your pain.'” And looking at her hurdle-filled course on the icy road, her mother rightly worries.

In Helsinki at the World Championships during spring, this 5-foot skater suffered a horrendous back pain. During the same championship, her teammate Ashley Wagner struggled in the free skating. Eventually, Chen came fourth and Wagner secured the seventh rank. In the memoir she wrote titled, ‘Finding the Edge: My Life on Ice’, Chen says, ” My lower vertebrae sometimes slips forward and backward because the bones are slightly cracked.” Scientifically, the condition is known as spondylolisthesis. She wrote, “When I arch my back in certain ways, bone pain pushes against the nerve, and pain shoots down my leg and back.”

During an interview, Chen was heard saying, “Sometimes it is hard for me that if I push through the pain it might get worse and I’ll set myself back. It was hurting to walk. It should have been a red flag. If it hurts to walk I don’t think I can skate and do triples.”

As Chen realized her limitations and understood when to stop pushing herself, her mother Tseng was quite relieved. Tseng said, “She’s getting better at telling me, ‘Mommy, if I push more I can’t skate tomorrow.” The family has been dealing with the champion’s injuries since she was nine. She broke her ankle at nine and surgeons left a small piece of the ankle bone instead of removing it.


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