He can finally lift his arms over his head and turn his neck without pain, but three-time Olympic swimmer Rick Say says he will wait until the Canadian championships in March to decide if he will continue racing or retire.
A pair of pinched nerves in his neck and shoulder gave Say ''major problems'' last year and made him wonder if his swimming career was finished.
''I thought it was going to be career-ending,'' Say, 29, said Tuesday in an interview from Nanaimo, B.C. ''At the moment things are getting better.
''It was a long process to heal. I have been doing a lot of physio and a lot of rehab. Part of it is just being patient.''
Say's injury kept him from training after the Summer Olympics in Beijing. He didn't return to the pool until Christmas and has been working out on his own.
''I have been doing this for 10 years, I have a pretty good idea what it takes to get ready,'' he said. ''I'm mainly just trying to rehab and get my shoulder and neck working properly again.
''Now that I'm healing, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable. I'm in the water, doing some harder stuff and it feels pretty good. The real test will be in March. I'll see how I react to the racing.''
Say, a native of Salmon Arm, B.C., has won three world championship and four Commonwealth Games medals in the pool. He first began experiencing difficulties in his neck and shoulders last February. The problems flared up at the Canadian Olympic trials and at the Games in Beijing.
''I couldn't turn my head left or right or look up,'' he said. ''I had a lack of mobility and a lot of pain when I tried to move.
''I couldn't really put my arms above my head. There was a lot of pain and not being able to sleep very well.''
At the Olympics, Say could barely use his left arm during the heats for the 4x200-metre relay.
''I couldn't pull,'' he said. ''I felt like I was swimming with a weight belt on.''
The relay team, touted as Canadian medal threat, finished fifth. Say did not swim in the final.
After the Olympics, Say was undecided if he would continue swimming.
''If you had asked me a few months ago, I didn't really know,'' he said. ''I couldn't commit to anything.
''I still believe I have a lot to offer to the national swim team. If I can make the national program after being away for a little while, great.''
If Say swims well at the Canadian championships he hopes to compete until the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.