Attention: The following visual is not for the meek. Bay Area triple jumper Erica McLain is about to describe a stomach-turning accident that almost ended her career.
It happened a year ago at Stanford during the second phase of her technical sport. She had gone from one left-foot hop to another smoothly enough. But by the time she landed on her right foot, ready to spring forward into the pit, she had veered off course. Instead of landing squarely on the runway, McLain hit the concrete edge of the runway where it meets the sandpit.
The awkward impact caused her right foot to buckle downward nearly 180 degrees to the inside of her shin, as she tumbled into the sand screaming in pain.
While America’s best triple jumper squirmed in the sand, bones protruding through skin, Cardinal coach Edrick Floreal held her down and tried to calm her by stroking her head.
“It’s just a little twisted,” he told McLain.
“It’s not twisted — it’s upside down,” the jumper replied, immediately figuring the injury to be so serious that her right foot would have to be amputated.
Paramedics administered morphine before taking McLain to Stanford hospital, where she eventually underwent multiple surgeries to clean sand out of the wound, reset bones and reattach torn ligaments.
“It was like throwing a grenade inside somebody’s ankle,” Floreal recalled.
Incredibly she didn’t break any bones. Although a surgeon told her she would never jump again, McLain, 26, almost immediately redoubled her efforts to recover in time to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics.