Versatile athlete Wieland able to rediscover passion for his sport

The junior hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil for Team Germany.

Luca Wieland competes in the men's hurdles at the Fieldhouse for the second annual Minnesota-Wisconsin Dual on Jan. 23.

Daily File Photo

Luca Wieland competes in the men’s hurdles at the Fieldhouse for the second annual Minnesota-Wisconsin Dual on Jan. 23.

Ryan Falk

A string of injuries caused junior Luca Wieland to nearly walk away from track and field as a freshman, but now he’s working toward a spot on the 2016 German Olympic team.
 
 
“I was at a point where I wanted to quit,” Wieland said. “It was hard to push through the pain and frustration.”
 
 
The multi-event athlete not only had to battle injuries to his hamstring as a freshman, he had to adjust to a new country. The process was made even more difficult by the language barrier, he said. 
 
 
“The biggest thing was getting [used] to speaking English,” Wieland said. “It was hard to communicate.”
 
 
Since overcoming his initial struggles, Wieland has become one of the Gophers’ biggest contributors. He set a Virginia Challenge record last Sunday in the long jump with a distance of 7.91 meters.
 
 
The jump won him the event title at the meet, and it is tied for the fifth-best in the nation this outdoor season.
 
 
The distance is also the best in the Big Ten this year and the second-best in school history behind Keita’ Cline’s record of 8.12 meters in 1995.
 
 
The performance showed just how far Wieland has come since his injury-plagued first year, as he’s now reconnected with track and field.
 
 
“He has true passion for the sport,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “I see a guy who is talented and committed.”
 
 
One way Wieland’s love for track and field shows itself is in how many events he’s competed in for the Gophers.
 
 
He has competed in 16 different events in college and seven events in this outdoor season alone. That versatility means he has to choose what to focus on in any given week.
 
 
“[Training] is tough,” Wieland said. “In the fall, I try to practice every event each week. You have to make compromises and focus more on your weaknesses.” 
 
 
Wieland’s strongest event is the long jump, as outside of the Virginia Challenge he’s placed in the top 10 of the other two outdoor meets he’s competed in this year.
 
 
It also can be his most tiring event.
 
 
“[Long jump] can be frustrating because it’s [all] speed and athleticism,” Wieland said. “Sometimes you don’t have it.”
 
 
Wieland is planning on competing in the Olympic qualifiers in Germany later this year, in the hopes that he can represent his country in Rio de Janeiro.
 
 
The junior will use the rest of the season to prepare for the qualifiers, as qualifying would come with an added benefit as well.
 
 
“[Qualifying] would mean everything,” Wieland said. “I’m half Brazilian, so I could see my family [that’s there]. The Olympics is the ultimate goal.”