Liz Looby's Olympic comeback

Updated: 12/26/2013 7:03 PM
Created: 12/26/2013 5:17 PM WHEC.com
By: Justin Granit

There are many inspirational stories about athletes in the Olympic games. One local speed skater has her own to tell. Liz Looby is one step away from the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and it's a miracle she has even come this far.

Liz Looby was a natural the moment she joined the Rochester Speed Skating Team. Straight to the top of her sport, the Olympics were in reach. Then with one crash, Liz went from Sochi hopeful, to unable to walk. The Olympics seemed impossible. Don't tell that to Liz, she'll prove you wrong..

Apollo Ohno's 500 meter gold medal performance in the 2006 Winter Olympics is the race where Liz Looby's journey began.

Looby said, “I saw speed skating on TV and I thought it was neat. I told my dad I wanted to do it. We found the Rochester Speed Skating Team and that's how it started.

Looby's short track talents were apparent the moment she joined the team in 2007 and by the time she graduated from Pittsford Mendon in 2008, Looby had her sights set on the Sochi 2014 Games.

Looby said, “My coach told me if I wanted to, I could start training for the Olympics. That blew my mind. I never thought I could do something like that, so I worked hard at it.”

So Liz moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to join the national development team. She was making strides towards her dream.

Then on October 3, 2010, Liz was competing when she was involved in a collision. Another racer's blade sliced into the back of Liz's right leg, severing two veins, two nerves and her hamstring.

Looby said, “I couldn't feel my leg at that point and it was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. I was laying there wondering what was happening to me. I was looking up and thinking I was going to die. It was a scary moment.”

Doctors said she would never race again. Liz was bed ridden for a month and that's when her determination took over. She taught herself how to walk, began rehabbing and shortly thereafter, Liz put on the skates, slowly skating around the rink.

Looby said, “I couldn't do much, but I could stand up and make my way around the track. I did a little bit more every day.”

Six months after the injury, Liz was training for long track, a switch from short track because of the stress it put on her leg. Then a year after that horrific crash, Liz was competing. She never quit.

Looby said, “I couldn't bare to think about that. I didn't want to look back ten years from now and be disappointed in my decisions. So I had to keep going even though I had those thoughts.”

The injury has slowed her down, but not enough to prevent Liz from the U.S. Trials in February. While racing in the 500 meters, she qualified for this weekends trials, the final step in making the Olympic team.

Looby said, “It's a miracle I even qualified for the Olympic trials. No matter what happens I will be proud of my performance.”

Liz admits she's a long shot for the Olympics, but don't forget, she was a long shot to even race again.

Looby said, “This is the proudest moment of my life. I am really happy. I came this far. I have been trying 100 percent at practice every day.”

The U.S Trials are this weekend in Salt Lake. Saturday, Liz will compete in the 500 meters and then on Sunday, she will be in the 1000. Both events to air on the NBC family of networks. 

For more information on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Long Track Trials, click here.


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