The Breakout Stars of the Olympics and Their Roads to Rio

The Rio Olympic Games have helped young, burgeoning athletes, participating for the first time to establish themselves as world-class Olympians. On the road to Rio, these rising stars from team USA have all been sidelined by injury, and overcome their pain to achieve their physical feats and bring home gold.

Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel has been considered one of the best sprint swimmers in the country since winning the 50-yard freestyle at the 2015 NCAA Championships, during his freshman year at the University of Florida. Caeleb continued his winning streak in 2016, breaking national records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events at the NCAA Championships, and moving to sixth in the all-time rankings.

Despite his natural talent, Caeleb briefly retired from swimming in 2014 due to his grueling training and the mounting pressure to perform. At the 2013 Winter Junior Nationals, Caeleb became the first person in his age group to swim the 50-yard freestyle in less than 19 seconds, but was hospitalized with breathing issues after his races. Directly following the event, Caeleb decided to retire, citing physical and mental burnout. After six months of rest, Caeleb reentered training with less intense workouts and extended breaks. While his coach estimates the time off deterred Caeleb’s development by a year, he has still proven himself as one of the world’s best swimmers in Rio. Caeleb returned home to Florida last week with two gold medals in the men’s 4x100m medley and freestyle relays, respectively.

Simone Biles

The first female gymnast to ever be the all-around world champion three years in a row, Simone Biles was breaking records before her stellar Olympic debut. Simone first broke out on the international stage at age 16 at the 2013 World Championships, where she won the world all-around title by nearly a full point.

After her stunning victory in 2013, Simone was forced to sit out of much of the 2014 season due to an aggravated shoulder injury that she hurt during training. Simone also cited mental exhaustion as a part of her need to take time off to recover, withdrawing from two major tournaments, the AT&T American Cup in March and the Pacific Rim Championships in April. Following six months of mental and physical rest and rehabilitation, Simone rebounded from her injury at the Secret US Classic in August 2014 with four gold medals, including the all-around. Since then, Simone has won more world championship gold medals than any other US gymnast in history, and made her debut at the Olympics with 4 gold medals, including the individual all-around.

Jack Sock

At 23 years old, Jack Sock is ranked as one of the top U.S players in both singles and doubles. During his high school tennis career, Jack was 80–0, winning four consecutive state championships. Jack’s singles successes include three Association of Tennis Professional’s (ATP) finals appearances, and one title, reaching №22 in the world-combined rankings.

After winning the Wimbledon Doubles in 2014, Jack tore his pelvis during fall, off-season training. In December of that year, he underwent hip surgery to pull down a muscle from his abdomen to reattach the pelvis, requiring 3 months of recovery. Jack made a strong comeback in March 2015, winning three of four matches at the BNP Paribas Open, and ultimately losing to Roger Federer in the finals. Sock continued his impressive return, winning the 2015 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships for his first ATP World Tour title. Despite being diagnosed with walking pneumonia the day before leaving for Rio, Jack prevailed during his mixed doubles and men’s double events at the Olympics, taking home a gold and bronze medal respectively.

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About Dr. McCance

For the past two decades, Dr. Sean McCance, a board certified NYC spine surgeon, has directed one of the leading spine practices in New York, Spine Associates, including lumbar (back) & cervical (neck) injury diagnosis and surgery. Since establishing his best in class practice on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, Dr. McCance has performed over 4,000 spine surgeries, and has been recognized by his peers as one of the most accomplished spine surgeons in the field. Dr. McCance’s philosophy of direct management of each case by an expert spine surgeon, and highly personalized and comprehensive approach has made Spine Associates one of the most trusted and respected spine surgery practices in the world.

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