Shewfelt wins simply by getting to Beijing

Aug. 06, 2008, 10:01 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING(AP) Kyle Shewfelt might have put on the most impressive performance of the day, just by showing up.

Less than a year after breaking the tibias in both of his legs, the reigning Olympic floor exercise champion marched into the National Indoor Stadium with the rest of his Canadian teammates for Wednesday's podium training. He sprinted down the vault runway without even the slightest limp, and tumbled across the floor with confidence and ease.

``Today was 'just another training,''' Shewfelt said. ``I was just here during my routines. But that's a good thing. I don't think the emotion of the journey I've been on will come into play until this is all over because I'm so focused on competing. Then when it's all over, I can look back and smile, and cry and scream and jump up and down.''

Shewfelt, the first Canadian to win a medal in artistic gymnastics, was expected to be a contender on both floor and vault at last year's world championships and here in Beijing. But last Aug. 27, he landed a tumbling move stiff-legged while training for the world championships. Both tibias were broken, and he damaged ligaments in his left knee.

``I thought the whole broken leg thing was an incredible setback for him,'' said Tony Smith, Canada's coach. ``He was at his best at the world championships; he was phenomenal.''

Shewfelt had no idea how serious the injury was at first, thinking he might be able to get away without needing surgery. Not only did he need surgery, it was extensive. To fix his broken bones, doctors inserted a screw in one leg and a plate and screw in another. The stretched ligament had to be stabilized, and a bone chip reattached.

He spent a month in a wheelchair, and it was several weeks before he could do anything gymnastics-related. It was January before he was doing some tumbling, and March before he vaulted. But slowly, surely, Shewfelt worked his way back.

``It was harder mentally than physically (to come back),'' Smith said. ``He even had some questions at Canadians (in June) about it, but he is so methodical in his training.''

Though the recovery from an injury is a personal thing, Shewfelt made his very public. The personal gymnast blogged about his comeback on his Web site,, sharing his hopes and his fears, his disappointments and his triumphs.

``It's where he vents,'' Smith said. ``He gets it out and says, 'Yeah, that's it.' He gets a load off his shoulder.''

There is no venting this week. Nor is there any pressure. Shewfelt is the reigning Olympic champion, but these Games - his third - are about far more than any prize that can be put around his neck. When he walks out on the floor Saturday, that will be his gold medal.

``For me, the journey getting here was my victory. If I'm able to win another medal, it will be gravy, the icing on everything,'' he said. ``I am very proud to be here, to represent my country and to show the world I came back from a serious injury. My strength of character is so strong right now and I have a lot of belief in myself.

``I'm celebrating the moment.''