Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/8/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
LONDON -- A year ago at this time, Derek Drouin was barely walking, let alone leaping.
The 22-year-old from Corunna, Ont., had suffered a lisfranc fracture, a gruesome foot injury that has ended the careers of countless athletes, and one that his doctor warned may keep him off Canada's Olympic team.
Certainly no one watching Tuesday night would have guessed that as he captured bronze in the men's high jump, Canada's first track and field medal at the London Olympics and its first in the event since Greg Joy's silver at the 1976 Montreal Games.
"That was the amazing thing," said his coach Joel Skinner, a high school teacher in Sarnia. "He struggled with it, got over it, was determined, came back from it. He has come back from this lisfranc fracture to win an Olympic medal and a lot of people need to know about that because it's just an amazing feat."
Drouin finished in a three-way tie with Britain's Robert Grabarz and Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim. All three cleared 2.29 metres without any misses then missed three attempts at 2.33 metres.
Ivan Ukhov of Russia won the gold with a jump of 2.38 metres while American Erik Kynard took silver with 2.33.
Mike Mason of Nanoose Bay, B.C., was eighth with 2.29, narrowly missing on one of his attempts at 2.33 metres that would have put him in the medals.
Canada now has 11 medals at the Games.
Drouin suffered the injury in March 2011 when he planted his right takeoff foot an odd way. The mid-foot injury results when the metatarsal bones are displaced. Picture a rider falling from a horse without being able to free his foot from the stirrup.
The three-time NCAA champion for Indiana University had surgery to secure his foot with screws and then was sidelined for eight months.
"My doctor made it very clear that if I was going to qualify (for London) it was going to be very, very tight. The rehab was extensive, it was very long," Drouin said. "Basically my goal was just to get through the season and get to the Olympics."
Mission more than accomplished -- a remarkable turn of events for an athlete so young competing on sport's biggest stage. The London Olympics represented Drouin's first national senior team appearance. The largest crowd he'd ever jumped in front of before the Olympics was at Penn Relays one year when Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt was racing.
But the young jumper wasn't overwhelmed competing before some 80,000 people Tuesday night.
"He's a rare one, he doesn't get rattled by too much, he has great focus, and thinks of everything as just another track meet," said Skinner.
For the better part of two hours, he made sure his eyes didn't stray up beyond the first couple rows at Olympic stadium. Drouin looked at the high jump pit, and he looked up at his coach sitting a couple of rows up from track level, and not much else.
"It was nice having my coach down low, it made it feel like a normal meet," he said. "I could just look eye level, I didn't have to look up and see everyone. That kind of made it very familiar.
"I do a good job of getting out there and not noticing everything. I did not notice how big this stadium actually was until I was doing my victory lap."
He went to Skinner in the stands the moment the event ended.
The six-foot-four jumper then went to his parents -- mom Sheila and dad Gates -- who were seated about five rows up. They handed him a Canadian flag that had been signed by dozens of supporters.
Then he ran to catch up to what became a five-man victory lap.
-- The Canadian Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2012 D1
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