Sean Graham, the Stillwater High School alum who trains with the Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene, will undergo surgery for a torn Achilles on Thursday, ending his quest to earn a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.
Graham (pictured) finished 8th in the 5000 meters in last year's USA Outdoor Championships in Indianapolis.
"Since indoors last year I have been dealing with an Achilles issue that I wasn't able to completely clear up," Graham told DtB. "Even after nearly 2.5 months of cross-training at end of last track season it would not go away."
Graham learned from an MRI last fall that he suffered from chronic tendinitis at the insertion point of the Achilles, but believed he could train on the injury and through some of the pain.
"I was able to keep it more or less under control taking a week or so in the pool here and there to let it calm down," he explained. "Unfortunately, as the intensity of the workouts increased as we got closer to the Trials so did the irritation to the Achilles. Apparently it got to the point where it became too inflamed and during what is now my last workout a few weeks ago it tore in two places, one of which is 50% through the tendon."
Thursday's surgery will repair the tendon, but require six months of recovery.
"I was lucky enough to be able to see three of the finest doctors in the field and they all came to the same conclusion after looking at a second MRI: the Achilles is in 'terrible shape' and I am very lucky that it did not rupture completely, but if I continue to train on it, it will rupture and I will be much worse off," Graham said.
During his now-abbreviated 2008 season, Graham finished 17th at the USA Cross Country Championships and clocked a 13:46.70 indoor 5000m. He ran a PR 13:23.50 in the 5000m last summer in Europe.
"It has been a very difficult two weeks [since the diagnosis] dealing with the thought that I am in such great shape but will not be able to compete for a spot on the Olympic team this year," Graham confided. "But, I am beginning to move forward."
Graham has decided to stay in Eugene, the site of the Olympic Track and Field Trials, during the recovery period after the surgery in hopes of competing in 2009 for the OTC.
"I'm just glad I'm not a race horse," Graham joked. "That is, I guess, my new 'line' when someone asks me about my situation, I hate to leave people feeling sorry for me so I figure maybe a little humor helps."
Photo by Sean Hartnett.