Amy Bilquist Undergoes Successful Shoulder Surgery, Aims For Olympic Trials

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Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Amy Bilquist has overcome injury after injury during her stellar swimming career.

She will have to overcome one more before the U.S. Olympic trials.

Bilquist underwent shoulder surgery on Friday to repair multiple issues in her left shoulder.

“This is what my career has been unfortunately defined by, and here we are again,” Amy Bilquist told Swimming World.

Bilquist was one of the top swimmers for the DC Trident during the International Swimming League (ISL) season, but the multitude of races in a short period of time took a toll.



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“For my long-term health this was the best situation for my recovery,” Bilquist said. “It has developed into several issues. It will be shaving the bone down and some other issues, repairing the muscle and tendon issues. One thing created a bad trickle-down affect. I have been losing a lot of strength and muscle in that arm.”

It got to the point where Bilquist was not able to train at the level needed to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. So surgery was the next step.

“I worked it past the point of natural recovery,” she said.

Bilquist has dealt with a stunning variety of injuries during her swimming career, including a recent knee surgery, broken hand, 12 stress fractures in her legs, a broken foot, broken rib, broken collarbone and broken fingers and toes.

“I have had so many injuries it is almost comical at this point,” Bilquist said. “I haven’t had a healthy season since my sophomore year of high school.

This is my story. Every athlete has some sort of hardship.”

But part of Bilquist’s story is the way she has responded after those injuries, fighting her way back to remain one of the world’s best swimmers.

After her broken foot, she helped Cal win NCAA relay titles.

After her broken hand, she won the 2019 U.S. national title in the 100 backstroke — actually while her hand was still broken.

After the knee surgery, she won several events and became one of the top point-scorers on the DC Trident.

After this shoulder surgery? Who knows? Bilquist still has dreams of making the Olympic team, something she was extremely close to in 2016 and has been one of the top U.S. swimmers in both backstroke events.


Amy Bilquist. Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

The biggest factor will be her rate of recovery.

“We’ll see if it will be similar to my knee issue. When I went under for my knee surgery, we were expecting it to be minor recovery, but it turned into months,” she said. “I am hoping this is not a similar situation. I am not sure what the time frame is going to be until I get out.  It is arthroscopic, so that should help. But I know I am definitely out of the water for a while.

“I waited on my knee and it got a lot worse. I didn’t want to do that.”

Bilquist also wanted to make sure she does what is best for her long-term, not just short-term.

“I am not able to train at the top level with this. It is making a decision now for future Amy, not just the swimming version of Amy. I was in so much pain in Budapest. We are such creatures of push through the pain in our sport. I have learned which ones are real pain and which are push through pain. I started doing doubles at age 10. This is years in the making. I am going on 17 years of wear and tear and sometimes you have to fix it. At this point of my career, I know there is less of it ahead than behind me and I need to do things for my long-term health,” Amy Bilquist said. “I have goals in swimming, but I have more after that. I want to life a live where I can pick up my kid in the future. I know this is what is best for my long-term health.

“I have done everything else I can.”