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BMX Olympian Felicia Stancil On The Mend Heading Into World Cup Opener

by Bob Reinert

Felicia Stancil competes during the women's BMX semifinals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

The way Felicia Stancil looks back on it, she went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Coming off her Olympic debut and a third-place finish on the world cup circuit, the BMX racer won her first U.S. title on Nov. 29, 2021. Less than two months later, on Jan. 14, 2022, she was leading the first race of the new year when she was hit from behind, crashed and suffered a dislocated right hip.
“I didn’t even see the crash happen,” Stancil said. “But then I woke up just in tons of pain and had to be rushed to the (emergency room) to get my leg back in place. My right femur came out of my hip. I actually looked up the pain scale, and it’s one of the most painful injuries.
“It was my biggest injury of my career. I didn’t even see it coming. Clearly, I was leading the race.”
What followed was three entire months of healing during which she wasn’t sure if she’d have a total hip replacement. She had to wait until a second MRI was done three months out from the injury.
“That was a really stressful time,” Stancil recalled. “I just tried to focus on the things I could focus on. During that entire January until the second week of April, when I got cleared, I just focused on maintaining as much strength as possible and maintaining fitness. And I think I did a pretty good job.
“I was very lucky that the healing went really smooth, but it just took a long time because when your leg comes out of place, it stretches everything out. It took three whole months to be able to get under the squat bar again, for my hip to be strong enough to hold weight.”
The MRI revealed that Stancil wouldn’t need hip replacement surgery, and she was cleared to resume training in the second week of April.
“Since I was able to focus on those little things … I actually don’t feel too far off right now, which is crazy to say,” said Stancil, who reports being pain-free. “I took all my physical therapy very serious. I feel confident from it now. I feel pretty fit, to be honest.
“It was definitely a learning process because I’d only really broken bones from injuries, and those take six to eight weeks to heal. This was the first really big soft tissue injury I had, and it was just so surprising to me that it took three whole months to be able to start training at high intensity again.”

Felicia Stancil competes during the women's BMX semifinals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Coming off her Olympic debut last year in Tokyo, where she finished just off the podium in fourth place, Stancil ended the year strong. Later in August, she made the final at the world championships, where she finished seventh after a crash. Then she ended the season on a high note, reaching the podium in four consecutive world cups, including a win, before claiming the national title.
Now Stancil opens the 2022 world cup this weekend with the first two rounds in Glasgow, Scotland. The 27-year-old from Indianapolis has a strategy for the first event.  
“I just need to ride smart,” Stancil said. “I think I’m used to having a little more speed than I have now, but if I ride smart, I think I could still perform very well. So, that’s just the plan for this upcoming weekend.
“With a few more weeks of training, I think I’ll be exactly where I was before. Even though I might not have 100 percent of the speed, if I have 80, 90 percent of the speed, and use it in a smart manner, I think I’ll hopefully end up doing well.”
As Stancil pointed out, the big three annual titles in BMX racing are the world championships, the world cup and the national championships.
“It’s still very early in the season,” said Stancil, “but I think if I keep my head down and just work hard and work consistent, that hopefully some of those doors are still open for me. I think, honestly, I just want to kind of go for all three.
“I’m excited to just keep pushing my body’s limits and try to get physically stronger, physically more fit, and just learn more and race smarter throughout these races.”
Farther down the road, Stancil has her eye on the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
“Hopefully, going into this next Olympic cycle,” she said, “I’ll be even more prepared.”


Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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