Pasadena woman to compete in Tokyo Olympics after overcoming six knee surgeries

Taekwondo Olympian is ready for Tokyo
Taekwondo Olympian is ready for Tokyo

Pasadena – Among those getting ready to compete in the Tokyo Olympics is one woman who trains in Houston.

Victoria Stambaugh, 28, from Pasadena said although her road to the Olympics has been anything but easy since recovering from six knee surgeries, she’s determined to give Puerto Rico’s taekwondo team all she got.

“The last one, which was in 2019, I thought it was going to be my career-ending surgery, but it turns out it wasn’t,” Stambaugh optimistically exclaimed.

During the 2019 operation, doctors even removed some of the meniscus, which is a C-shaped piece of tough, rubbery cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your shinbone and thighbone.

According to her strength training coach Blaine Schmidt, there’s not much that can slow her down.

“She was ready last year. She’s been biting at the bit to get out there, so I think she’s definitely ready. Mentally and physically, yes,” Schmidt said.

There’s a challenge to strength training taekwondo athletes, according to Schmidt. He said due to the kicks and hits, there’s an increased chance of damaging tissue in the joints. However, he said Stambaugh is back to full strength and they’re working on fine-tuning some movements before she heads to Tokyo.

While many people would assume qualifying for the Olympics before a global pandemic is a bad thing, Stambaugh said it’s given her more time to heal, train and enjoy the process.

“I think when you think with a mind of gratitude and thankfulness, you see life differently, and day-to-day you can take it and be happy and not think about what’s going to happen tomorrow or any negative outcomes that could possibly happen because you’re here in the present moment enjoying life and being thankful,” she said.

Tearing an ACL or meniscus is often thought to be career-ending for athletes. Stambaugh said she assumed that would happen to her, but this is one of those amazing things that happen in medicine.

Doctors and trainers said people like Stambaugh who have a positive mindset can heal and recover well from many setbacks. In this case, it happened six times before she even qualified for the Olympic games.