By Stephen J. Thomas
PERTH, Australia, November 3. AUSSIE short course freestyle sprint champ Eamon Sullivan has undergone his third hip operation in two years, forcing the 20-year-old Athens Olympian off of the Aussie team due to compete in Durban, South Africa from November 11-13, the first stop of the 2005-06 FINA World Cup caravan trail.
The injury first arose in August 2003, when the then promising age group swimmer had to miss his first attempt at the national short course championships to undergo surgery. Sullivan had developed a labral tear to the cartilage on the right side of his femur. The cartilage had torn away from the lining of his hip leaving the head of the femur to rub against the torn cartilage.
The operation, using key-hole surgery, initially proved successful and he made it through to a successful Olympic Trials which saw him take a spot on the Aussie men’s 400 freestyle relay team in the Athens Olympic final alongside his three vastly more experienced teammates, Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim and Todd Pearson.
However, in December last year he suffered a recurrence of the same injury and went under the knife for the second time with the diagnosis indicating the cause was scar tissue around the original operation. Again the operation proved successful but left him with only weeks to prepare for the World Championship Trials. A third place finish in the 100 freestyle left Sullivan just outside the qualifying time for relay selection in Montreal.
Undeterred the West Aussie put in the work at home and produced some outstanding form at Short Course Nationals in August. Sullivan took third in the 50 free in a PR 22.09 then tied for first in the 100 freestyle clocking 47.91 along with former world champ and Aussie record-holder Ashley Callus to gain selection for the World Championships in Shanghai next year. His eye-catching effort in the 100 free was a significant step forward for the young sprinter moving him to fifth all-time Aussie performer behind four Olympic gold medallists: Callus, Klim, Thorpe and Chris Fydler.
Just a few of weeks ago Sullivan started to experience similar pain in his left hip and once again visited the Melbourne based specialist for surgery. The prognosis thus far is good and he is again slowly building up his workload in the pool.
“I’ve learned a lot from the previous operations,“ Sullivan said. “I know what to do and what not to do in my recovery time, like not to overdo using paddles when I’m not able to kick … last time I ended up injuring my shoulders. I hope to be swimming at the Skins event and the World Cup in Sydney in just over two weeks, I won’t be fully fit but I’m told that it will not affect the surgery,” he said.
His coach Grant Stoelwinder added that the series of injuries that have plagued his young charge has taught them a great deal about how he will need to prepare for competition in future. “Eamon does not do well under an extended high kilometer effort, he is prone to injury so we need to modify his program accordingly,” Stoelwinder explained. “This time around he has recovered remarkably well (from surgery) in such a short time but we will be keeping a careful eye on his progress.”
The Sydney leg of the FINA World Cup will be held November 19-20.