Oussama “Ous” Mellouli and Tara Pollak met at a critical time for the former USC Trojan swimmer. Mellouli had a potentially career-ending injury and faced surgery, but he ruled out the knife once he started working with Pollak, a graduate of USC’s doctor of physical therapy program. Call it a case of Trojans helping Trojans, as Mellouli’s Olympic future now looks bright. They shared their story with writer Hope Hamashige.
Mellouli: 2010 was my worst season. Every time I got in the pool it was like someone was running a sharp knife through my shoulder. I was introduced to Tara and from the second we met we got along.
Tara did things differently than other physical therapists. She helped me understand that I needed to work on my shoulder, but that part of the problem was weak- nesses in other muscles.
Pollak: We do a lot of strength and conditioning in addition to physical therapy. I’ve even filmed him to analyze his stroke.
Mellouli: Physical therapy is hard, very technical work. I’m glad I took surgery of the table. Other athletes who’ve done surgery didn’t come back as strong.
Pollak: He won a gold in the 10-kilometer marathon and bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the London Olympics.
Mellouli: I thought that would be a good time to retire, but…
Pollak: After he decided to come back, we trained in France for several weeks to get him ready for competition. He didn’t expect to win a gold in the 5 kilometer and bronze in the 10 kilometer at the World Champion- ships in Barcelona.
Mellouli: I need to stay healthy to make it to the Olympics in Rio, and I know Tara will help.
Mellouli continues to train at USC, and Pollak is clinical director of Evolution Physical Therapy in Culver City, Calif. Follow their progress to Rio 2016 on Twitter at @PollakTara and @MellouliOussama.