Lukas Verzbicas and Brett Sutton at Cozumel last November.
Since the release of an interview conducted with Lukas Verzbicas and his announcement being part the Trisutto.com squad I’ve been inundated with inquiries about the status of his rehabilitation and details of his return.
It is great that he has not been forgotten by his USA fans. Anyone familiar with his story could not wish him anything but the best. However, keeping his third coming to triathlon as low key as possible is essential for his rehabilitation.
I have known about Lucky V well before he was going to possibly be the ‘next big thing’ in triathlon. His people had made contact with me about a future tri move as his junior run days were flourishing, and so I have always followed his career trajectory with great interest.
Even before the horrific accident, I was worried about the hype and heaping so much pressure on an athlete so young. Running 4 laps of a track, even if one does it in under 4 minutes, is very different to running 25 after a bike and swim. Carrying such weight of expectation is very difficult, the university decision he made only adding more unnecessary pressure on him to perform.
However, start to perform he did. Thus to understand how ones dreams are shattered in a split second, how he must have felt laying in the bed broken made me very, very sad for him.
That such a driven young man quite possibly had all his ambitions stolen from him by a turn, a bit of gravel, and a post just seemed so unfair.
Then to watch him battle his way back, have a few promising hope indicators early on, only for them to slowly dry up as his body started to shut down was to me equally unjust and cruel.
His shoulder began to seize up in the swim. His ankle, now a distinctly different animal than it used to be causing discomfort in his run, while his broken back started to call in its chips and hurt during rides.
That is why in rebuilding Lucky V we need to work around an obvious fact: His body is not and never will be the same.
However his heart, desire and brain is. So we are going to restart the journey using these advantages.
What’s going to be different?
First attitude. I call him Lucky V. Why? Because he better understand he’s a very lucky young man to still be alive. He has the rest of his long life to fulfil with great adventures. Physically, he still has many skills that make him above average. Should he not be able to make it to very top of triathlon again, he can pursue career options as a Navy SEAL and has the ability to be a hard man at that level.
So he is lucky and has to learn to celebrate in that.
V is for our shared hope of victory. We believe if we build it, it will come.
Regarding the changes to his style the article mentions and many are interested about:
Yes, we remodelled his swim so not as much flexibility is needed in the water. Thus he may be able to build volume without excessive pain in the progress.
We have changed the bike position, his training, plus what cranks and gears he uses so as to let the bike be the vehicle which builds his endurance through.
Finally, we have adjusted the ‘you can’t change it!’ run technique in the hope his ankle feels more at home and will let him build a mileage base that will allow him to be competitive in the future.
The word ‘we’ is also very important to his re-development. Bob Babbitt has been so positive and done so much great work to keep his triathlon career alive. Trisutto.com coach Robbie Haywood is also of great support. Robbie has suffered a broken back, ribs, collapsed lung and neck, and had to relearn how to swim. So he knows all too well not only the physical pain but the mental one in bouncing back.
My job is to be the parrot on Lukas’ shoulder saying ‘this time we hurry slowly. Back if off big man, your body needs time.’ I’m here to remind him that there is an Olympics every 4 years and Brazil is not the end of it. He is still young enough to go to three if he misses Rio.
The last part of the ‘we’ are you, his fans and well wishers. Thank you again for all your continued support of a very brave American. But understand he needs time.
He will be in Switzerland, not just to train with the squad, but as a time out from all that he has endured. Out of the pressure cooker we hope he will enjoy his good fortune to still be here, while he doing some training in a foreign land where no-one will say ‘so sorry, bad luck’ as they try to be helpful.
He hasn’t given up. Far from it. But this time we are going to let his body do the leading and not his driven head. That’s my job. Lucky V will hurry slowly and we will see if with time he can come back to represent his country.
I have no expectations and when he learns to have none either, then we may see him back. But it will be a new animal. The new one will not be about talent, but about willpower, heart, and courage. With those qualities who dares to say that won’t have him back even better? Not me!
The journey has begun, best mechanical luck.