Sarah Scherer, a 2012 Olympian, was forced to withdraw from the upcoming 2014 World Shooting Championships, a result of a back injury that prevented her from training properly and would have prevented her from traveling and competing without significant pain and limitations. The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Championships begin September 8 in Granada, Spain, featuring 81 USA Shooting Team athletes.
A double qualifier in both Air and Three-Position Rifle, Scherer’s withdrawal creates immediate opportunity for Emily Holsopple (Wilcox, Pennsylvania). Holsopple is a three-time U.S. Championships medalist and has been training steadily at her new home at the U.S. Olympic Training Center ever since news of Scherer’s injury surfaced during the Spain Grand Prix. Competing in Scherer’s spot in air rifle will be Amy Sowash (Richmond, Kentucky), who was already on the team competing in three-position. Sowash’s opportunity came after junior world team members Minden Miles (Weatherford, Texas) and Sonya May (Rockland, Massachusetts) declined the opportunity to move up to open competition.
Scherer, like most all athletes in the sport, has dealt with minor back pain throughout her career, but it worsened significantly upon arrival in Granada, Spain, last month. Pain from three herniated discs was so severe that she was sent home early and placed on an aggressive physical therapy program in hopes of getting her ready to compete. All that effort proved insignificant in treating the pain and condition and thus Scherer, in consultation with the U.S. Olympic Committee medical team lead by USA Shooting sport physiotherapist Cathy Arnot and Dr. Bill Moreau, ultimately decided the best path was to not compete and aggressively treat her symptoms with surgery likely in the near future.
According to the USOC medical team, Scherer has two disc extrusions- one at L3-4 and one at L4-5 and a disc protrusion at L5-S1. The end result is pain, loss of muscle function and sensation in her legs and an inability to get into shooting position without creating more pressure on the spinal nerves. Her symptoms have not responded to high dose steroids or physical therapy. The likely next steps for Scherer will include spinal injection, and a probable spinal decompression at the affected levels.
Scherer (Woburn, Massachusetts) is confident that her career is not in jeopardy and that this setback is only temporary. She’s very much look forward taking the steps necessary to alleviate her back pain in order to get back quickly to the sport she loves. She’ll miss the opportunity to share this experience with teammates and the chance to compete against the very best.
“After incurring my injury in the beginning of July, the USOC medical staff and I have tried our hardest to ready my back through physical therapy in hopes that I might be able to return to training and would be able to compete in the World Championships. But my back didn’t respond as we had hoped showing us that stronger therapy would be necessary to treat the extent of my injury. I am hopeful that this will go smoothly and will put me back on the path to full recovery and strong shooting performances in the near future. I wish all my teammates the best of luck as they finish their final preparations and compete in the World Championships. When you are on the firing line or shotgun field, just remember that you have all of us here rooting for you. Hit’em hard for Team USA!”
Throughout her young career, Scherer has shown unbelievable resolve having dealt with the death of her brother and a fractured elbow just weeks prior to her first Olympic competition. A fall two weeks prior to her arrival in London left her Olympic dream in doubt with a badly fractured elbow, but aggressive therapy and Scherer’s tenacity got her to the line on the first day of the Olympic Games. She wouldn’t just settle for being a participant either as she was in the hunt for medals that day, shooting her way into the finals, where she eventually finished seventh.
Scherer was a two-time NCAA National Champion in smallbore (.22 caliber) rifle at Texas Christian University while also leading the Horned Frogs to two national team titles as well. At the 2010 World Championships, she was a junior silver medalist in three-position rifle while teaming with Amanda Furrer and Sarah Beard for a team title. She earned a bronze medal in three-position at the USA World Cup earlier this season in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Image courtesy USA Shooting