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Shelley Osterloh ReportingTwo weeks ago a Utah athlete's dream of going gold looked impossible. A runaway bobsled crashed into her and broke her leg in two places. But for Orem's Noelle Pikus Pace, it's just another challenge to winning her spot back on the Olympic team.
The Skeleton and Bobsled teams were training in Calgary for the World Cup and Olympic trials. A rookie brakeman on a four man bobsled apparently did not know the track and did not realize the sled had crossed the finish line. It hit Noelle Pikus Pace at about 50 miles an hour, sending her flying 15 feet.
Noelle Pikus Pace, Skeleton Slider: "At that point when they rolled me over, I saw a big pool of blood and my speed suit was all torn up, and I saw my bone coming out. And that's when I knew it was really bad."
That afternoon surgeons realigned the bones of her tibia and fibula, running a titanium rod from her knee to her ankle. It acts like an internal cast, holding the bones in place while they heal. Now she carefully works to keep the muscles strong and limber while the bones heal, hoping she just might make it back on her sled by January, in time to qualify for the Olympics.
Brent Butler, P.T., Noelle's Physical Therapist: "Is it a potential? It is. Otherwise we would be more honest with her. Is it a tough one? It will be. Every day from now to January counts."
Noelle Pikus Pace, Skeleton Slider: "I am here and I'm getting stronger and that's my goal right now, just take it one day at a time."
Therapists say the key to Noelle's recovery may be her attitude, but it’s also her intelligence, knowing when to push and when to hold back.
Brent Butler, P.T.: "Really the therapy now is her listening to her body and progressing ever so slowly within parameters."
Pace says family support and hundreds of e-mails and notes of encouragement have helped keep her spirits up, but it is her faith in God that gives her peace.
Noelle Pikus Pace, Skeleton Slider: "I know that wherever I go, he'll take care of me. And whether it’s just to heal my leg and move on with life, or compete next year or go to the Olympics, that's his will for me."
Her faith, optimism, humor and drive helped her rise to the top of her sport and now helps her as she recovers. Best of luck Noelle.