CDS graduate finds solace after U20 Pan Am injury

August 14, 2019   ·   0 Comments

CDS graduate Wilson O’Neill is fresh off an appearance at the 2019 Pan Am U20 Championship in San Jose, Costa Rica.

By Jake Courtepatte

There are plenty of highs and lows in the athletic world, and Wilson O’Neill has experienced both extremes this summer.
The Country Day School graduate was named to Team Canada for the Under-20 Pan Am Games in San Jose, Costa Rica, in June, set to compete in the 400-metre hurdles.
“It was an incredible experience,” said O’Neill. “It was my first time ever representing my country in an international meet … I was really just honoured to be there, because it was a sign that all the work that I’ve put in throughout this year and the past four years has built up to this.”
One of just 42 athletes named to Team Canada, O’Neill landed in Costa Rica on July 17 to begin his training. The next morning, at the very first team practice, tragedy struck.
He was focused and “ready for a good training session,” said O’Neill’s coach, teacher Denise Steadman. “On the second to last hurdle of the final drill, Wilson heard a ‘pop’ in his knee.
“I asked him a few questions and then decided that it would be best if he saw the team therapist before continuing his workout. The therapist did a quick assessment and said that although Wilson’s knee was structurally strong, she advised that we shut down practice. We were all hopeful that with some rest and ice, he would bounce back.”
Some light training over the next few days had O’Neill in high spirits, feeling no pain when running, but yet there were still doubts as to his ability to compete.
“During the final assessment, Wilson acknowledged that his knee felt good while running, but every time he did any hurdle type movement there was pain – not a good sign,” said Steadman. “The therapists performed a few more tests and then gave their recommendation … ‘we advise that you not compete, but the final decision is up to you and your coach.’ We were both stunned as we left the warm-up area to find a place to discuss the situation.”
With a long career ahead of him in the track world at Western University, both O’Neill and Steadman agreed he sit out his event, instead using his time to cheer on his teammate Lee in the hurdles.
“It was really unfortunate that I didn’t get to race, but it was a really clear decision that I shouldn’t run,” said O’Neill. “They said ‘this is your first international event, don’t make it your last.
“Once I found out I wasn’t running, I just sort of took a night for myself, turned off my phone, but then the next day my roommate was running, so I just wanted to be there for him. That’s all I could really do, just be there for everyone else.”
O’Neill’s rise to the height of the hurdles world came rapidly: he happened to fall into the sport when he needed something to do away from the snowboarding team in Grade 9, finishing third in OFSAA competition that year before placing first in both long and short hurdles in his grade ten year.
After an injury in Grade 11 kept him away from the track, he closed out his high school career with a double silver.
I picked it up pretty quick,” said O’Neill. “And just ran with it.”
No pun intended.



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