I wrote a story in December about Christian Niccum's odyssey of injuries, self-doubt and a doping ban during the 12 years between his medal-winning rides on the World Cup luge circuit. No one ever had gone longer between podiums.
(For that story, click here.)
Just got an e-mail from USA Luge saying Niccum has had another rough turn: a back injury that may require surgery and has caused him to end his season prematurely.
After competing in the 2010 Olympics, Niccum had turned to Bray to deal with chronic back problems. Bray convinced Niccum there was a cure if he came to the D.I.S.C. Center for six weeks of rehab. When it ended, Niccum felt good enough to think of sliding again, and he teamed with a new partner, Jayson Terdiman.
"After Christmas, each week my back just got worse and worse and worse,'' Niccum said of the latest setback. "I'm not in too much pain, but I just want to take the proper precaution so it doesn't turn into something worse.
"Over the last month, my back hasn't been able to stand up to the demand of going down the track in the fast, proper position.''
Niccum and Terdiman finished eighth, eighth and 15th in three January World Cups and then 11th in last weekend's World Championships.
They had been fifth, third, eighth and sixth in the World Cups before Christmas.
"I think the season started a little too soon, and I came out of the gates a little too strong,'' Niccum said. "I think I used up too many of the good runs at the beginning of the year.''
Niccum, who turned 33 last week, insisted the 2014 Olympics still were his goal.
"I want to win,'' he said. "That's the biggest driving force.''
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Christian Niccum sits up after he and partner Jayson Terdiman finished sixth at the December World Cup in Park City, Utah. (Steve C. Wilson / Associated Press)