New Orleans native and Louisiana Tech product Chelsea Hayes has been determined to overcome a string of injuries and qualify for her second Olympics. (Courtesy of John Nutt)
That same little giggle somehow punctuates even the most disappointing and frustrating moments as Chelsea Hayes vents through the past four years.
A fractured back, a bulging disc, severe patellar tendonitis in her right knee, tendonitis in her left and injuries to her groin, hip flexor and abductor among other areas haven’t been able to wear away the wide, infectious smile not even Hurricane Katrina could dampen for long.
And so the 2012 U.S. Olympian returned to Eugene, Ore., on Tuesday for this week’s Olympic Trials in search of an against-all-odds, storybook finish to her rollercoaster coming of age.
“The thing was: Katrina, we lost everything — we even lost family members,” says Hayes, who will compete in the long jump Friday evening. “So I wouldn’t put (the past four years) on that same platform. It was pretty tough. It was pretty stressful. There were times I questioned my ability. There were times that I questioned whether I should keep going forward with this.
“‘What should I do? Is this for me? Was my last calling in London? Should I keep going forward?’
“But I just think about, ‘I’ve been through Katrina. I lost everything, and that thing that kept me going was track and field.’ That got me out of New Orleans. I don’t know where I would be without track. Track got me to college. So that’s why I feel like, no matter what, at the end of the day, you can take everything from me, but you’re not gonna take away my ability to compete and my ability to keep fighting.”