Litchfield battles back
Bear River grad vaults again, aims for Olympics
By Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Bear River Graduate Paul Litchfield, who currently resides in Minneapolis, Minn., competed in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last week after recovering from a broken back. Litchfield often competes in pole vaulting uniform that resembles a tuxedo.
When Paul Litchfield broke his back, some people said he would never pole vault again.
His heart told him otherwise.
The Bear River graduate, who was a record-breaker at Idaho State University, qualified for the USA Track and Field National Championships in Eugene, Oregon last weekend. The 18 foot and 1 inch mark that got him there on June 13 was Litchfield’s final act of defiance to all of the naysayers.
“When you get injured everybody tells you you’re done,” Litchfield said. “When people tell me I can’t do something it motivates me that much higher. I don’t like being told what to do, especially when it comes to my body. One thing is if you are truly passionate about something, you will probably never give up on it”
Litchfield, 30, who now competes for Fuzion Athletics moved to Minneapolis, Minn. to train and coach at Fuzion’s indoor facility. He designed his own training regimen and worked with a physical therapist to recuperate his back. Work-outs consisted mainly of running in water, cycling on a stationary bike and using gymnastics rings to build strength. Going into the championships, Litchfield felt strong, but didn’t finish how he would have hoped.
“I didn’t clear a bar,” Litchfield said. “I’m surprisingly positive. I have no-heighted at major championships before and been emotionally crushed for weeks after. This time it’s a lot different because I am really proud of what I did to get there.”
Litchfield said that a moment of hesitation cost him in last weekend’s competition, but he has already set his sights on the future. Championships have only solidified his resolve to continue training.
“I really felt like I belonged there. I felt like I was good enough to be there and good enough to be on the podium,” Litchfield said. “I really feel like I could make the Olympic team.”
Going into the competition Paul’s father Bob Litchfield, of Auburn, said he was nervous that his son could get hurt again, but proud of how he has handled the adversity.
“Paul has a faith which is stronger than even my own,” Bob Litchfield said. “For a father life just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Paul’s coach Dave Neilsen, head track and field coach at Idaho State University said Paul has worked through injuries before.
“He has had to be his own doctor in a way,” Nielsen said. “He wasn’t just a pole vaulter. He was a conference champion in decathlon. He is a well-rounded athlete. He’s got a lot of fans and friends in Pocatello, Idaho, as he does in Auburn and Grass Valley.”
Litchfield, who often competes in pole vaulting uniform that resembles a tuxedo, does things on his own terms. He said that for other athletes having doubts about returning after injuries, tuning other people’s opinions out may be the best strategy.
“You have to make your own decision no matter what obstacles come your way,” Litchfield said. “Tell them to go to hell, because you can. If I can do it, then anybody can.”
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