Although many of us watch athletes on television or in live competition, few people actually see everything that goes into the 5K run, the 100-meter dash, or the 66-meter javelin throw. Mental strength, determination, and perseverance, are just a few of the traits Kara Winger embodies and has worked on through the years. Her journey in track & field began in the 8th grade, albeit not in the javelin competition. As a native of Vancouver, Washington, she always liked sports but did not find her passion for javelin throwing until her freshman year geometry teacher convinced her to try out the sport. She found immediate success at the state level, winning three state championships in javelin competitions. Kara’s success continued into college, where she attended Purdue University. In 2008, at the age of twenty-two, she made her first Olympic team. Unfortunately four years later, a devastating ACL injury at the Olympic trials in 2012 would drastically change her career.

Often times injuries can be career ending. This was not the case for Winger. Instead her ACL injury showed her a level of strength she did not think possible, “Through rehab comes strength I did not realize I had. My biggest challenge has been health, but last year, I took a huge step forward,” Winger stated. Since her almost four year recovery process, her outlook and views on the sport have changed. Before her injury, Winger found herself micromanaging her diet and her career. Since her injury, and in large part through the support of her husband and fellow grantee, Russ Winger, Kara sees much more freedom in her outlook on her competition and in her life, “Meeting my husband has allowed me to become more focused on life in general and I realized I don’t need to be as obsessed with sports. Don’t get me wrong, we work and train very hard but we get our practices done and then we do other things. It works really well to be athletes together but to also be able to enjoy the rest of our lives,” stated Winger.

Looking to the future, Winger has her eyes set on Rio, but is also prepared to make it through one more Olympic Cycle. When asked what her favorite part about her sport is, she said, “Most people don’t realize how technical it is. I feel like I am solving a puzzle everyday. It always leaves you wanting just a little bit more and it is super, super fun when it all comes together.” As she continues on her pursuit to make it back to the Olympics, she feels a close connection to the United States. Having lived in almost every region of the country she feels a sense of home everywhere and loves representing The United States in competition. She is currently working on completing her MBA and enjoys her life, living with her husband in Colorado Springs, for now, but is prepared to go wherever the journey in life takes her and Russ.

Story Written By Morgan D’Arcy