Not a normal injury

WSC thrower Richard Sweeney with a never quit attitude

Amanda Krehbiel, Assistant Website Editor

We hear of athletes out for the season because of an ACL tear, or maybe a broken wrist.

But freshman thrower Richard Sweeney’s case is different.

On New Year’s Eve, 2014, Sweeney was alone in the barn at his home in Blair,working on some Christmas presents for his family. He had made his grandfather a candy machine, his brother and father tape dispensers and his sister a clock.

Sweeney was using a table saw to cut bookends for another gift when he lost the middle two fingers of his left hand.

“I am a construction management major, so it is kind of ironic that it happened to me,” he said. “I’ve taken safety courses, but since it has happened I am more cautious about safety around machines.”

The accident had major implications for Sweeney: typing on a computer became difficult, his new piano class became complicated—and throwing?

During indoor track and field season, Sweeney throws both the hammer and weight throws. For both of these, the object is held in the left hand.

Because of the accident, WSC throwing coach Brett Suckstorf and WSC track and field head coach Marlon Brink decided to have Sweeney medical redshirt his freshman year.

“I knew I couldn’t compete for a while, and I was worried it would halt my career at first,” Sweeney said.

However, with the help and support of his family and teammates, he is already practicing again.

“My goal is to compete at nationals next year,” he said. “I don’t see why I can’t still strive for my goal, which has helped me keep going—as well as my faith, and everyone who has been really supportive about it.”

Because he is a redshirt, Sweeney isn’t able to travel to away meets on the school’s bill. Despite that, his teammates pushed for him to be able to come along.

“He’s a real inspiration,” sophomore thrower Michaela Dendinger said.

Sweeney was given permission to travel with the team to its last meet in Mankato, Minn.

After just a few reassuring doctor’s visits, Sweeney began to do 100 push-ups a day on the heels of his hands. Shortly after, he began to lift with his team, using special lifting straps to compensate for his lost hand strength. Now, he practices full-time, even throwing the hammer.

“I talked to my coach about throwing left-handed (holding the hammer in the right hand). He looked at me and said, ‘Are you serious?’ When I told him I was, he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Sweeney has been encouraged by the progress he is making while beginning to relearn how to throw the hammer the opposite way of that which he is accustomed to.

Less than two short months after his accident, Sweeney is up on his feet—and using his hands.

“I am determined to reach my goals, and keep practicing and getting better, with the help of my family, coaches and teammates.”