Jun 06, 2024Dillon Clapp

Collegiate track and field star’s road to recovery
By Jake Peterson

Elena Opp is a graduate student-athlete at the University of Colorado from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. She has been a member of the Track and Field team since graduating high school in 2019 and participates in the shot put, weight throw and hammer throw events. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Astronomy from the university in 2023 and is currently pursuing an MBA.

Opp comes from a family of great athletes. Her dad played Division 1 college football and trained for the Olympics once his football career was over. Her mother was a dancer and an incredible athlete in her own right. Both of her brothers are football players, although opposite-type players. One is a big bruiser lineman who is currently an NFL free agent, while her twin brother is finishing up his college eligibility at the University of Sioux Falls as a skilled wide receiver.

Opp came into the 2023-2024 track season feeling great, maybe better than ever. However, right after getting back from Thanksgiving break, tragedy struck.

“I went back on the 27th (of November) and had the best practice of my life. I’m not even kidding… I was so amped,” Opp said. “I just probably went a little too hard.”

After a hammer throw, Opp said she began to feel a little pain in her right knee. She was throwing with an injured meniscus, so knee pain was normal for her. But when pain started coming from her hip and back, she knew something was wrong.

She was initially diagnosed with a bulging disk, but after some very painful chiropractic treatments an MRI revealed she also had a fracture in her back.

An injury of this magnitude typically ends a season for throwers, but Opp set her sights on making it back for the Pac 12 Championships in May. It meant a lot for her to be back by then because the University of Colorado was hosting the competition in Boulder.

Opp was very disciplined for the first few weeks of her recovery, being careful not to put too much strain on her back with anything she did. Once she was able to get going again, she started putting in the grueling work with her trainers and physical therapist in hopes of being able to return before the end of the 2024 season.

However, setbacks in February and March have made it difficult for Opp to make it back.

“I still have a very optimistic mindset,” she said on April 22. “But I 100% thought that I was going to be back by this point.”

Over the past few weeks, Opp and her camp decided that it was best to not push it after doctors and trainers made it clear she would not be cleared for the 2024 Pac 12 Championships.

Her training regimen has changed since then to focus on more recovery and quality reps to make sure she’s able to make a full recovery for the 2024-2025 season.

She was able to retain a year of eligibility. She now has two years of eligibility remaining to compete at the highest level of collegiate track and field.

“I want to come back at my best ever next year because that's my opportunity.”

Follow along with Opp’s recovery here at the livefluid.com blog. And see more of her progress at her Instagram account.


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