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Rising to new heights: After surgery, Olympian takes gold

April 2013

by Catherine Duncan

Charles Austin
After a successful operation and care provided by a Health Science Center orthopaedic physician, Charles Austin returned to the Olympics. Austinís jump of 7 feet 10 inches earned him the gold medal at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. He was the first American to win the gold medal for the high jump since 1968. At age 45, he remains the record holder.
Raised in Van Vleck, Texas, Charles Austin was the youngest of 10 children. As a high school senior searching for the means to attend college, his friends convinced him to try high jumping. He cleared 6 feet on his first try and finished the year with a best of 6 feet 11 inches.

His jumping ability led to an athletic scholarship at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) in San Marcos. During his college career, he shattered school records before being named the nationís top college high jumper.

Austin believes he tore his patellar tendon during his senior year of college. Despite the knee injury, he won the World Championship in 1991 and was considered a contender to win the 1992 Olympics. Although he made the Olympic team, his injury cost him a medal.

"At that point, two doctors in the United States and two in Europe had told me there was no hope of jumping again," Austin said. "In 1993, I met Dr. (Jesse) DeLee who said he had never seen an injury like mine. He didnít make me any promises, but he said he would try. Dr. DeLee gave me a chance. He gave me the hope I needed," he said.

On July 7, 1993, Dr. DeLee performed the extensive surgery and closely monitored Austinís rehabilitation. By December 1993, Austin was jumping again. In 1994, he began his journey back to the top of the high jumping world.

In 1996, he returned to the Olympics. His jump of 7 feet 10 inches earned him a gold medal. Today, Austin, age 45, remains the American and Olympic high jump record holder. He lives in San Marcos with his wife and three sons. Austin owns the So High Sports & Fitness Performance Center and Studio.

"I still do not have any problems with my knee. Dr. DeLee did a fantastic job. I owe a lot of credit to him. He gave me hope when no one else would. I recommend Dr. DeLee and his colleagues to all athletes," he said.



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