What did it take for arthritis athlete Kristin Armstrong to become an Olympic gold medal athlete in the 29th Olympic Games in China? Impressive physical stamina, an ability to think strategically while pedaling at blistering speeds, and the will to win.

The blonde, green-eyed Boise, Idaho, resident possesses the kind of athletic prowess champions are made of. Her feats tell the tale – three-time National Time Trial Champion; two time National Road Champion, the top U.S. finisher in the women's road race at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and three world championship medals (gold in 2006, silver in 2007, bronze in 2005).

Remarkably, she won all of these victories after being diagnosed in 2001 with osteoarthritis, a degeneration of cartilage in both of her hip joints.

Armstrong’s stamina and competitive streak surfaced long before she was a gold medal athlete. By seventeen she was a world-class swimmer and Junior Olympian. Setting her sights on the triathlon, she mastered running and cycling. After she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sports physiology from the University of Idaho in 1995, Armstrong, a military brat who grew up in Tennessee and California and went to high school in Tokyo, moved to Boise.

A fierce competitor, she was also a community-minded volunteer who taught swimming and coached at the local YMCA. She began to put down roots while she trained as a triathlete, competing in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

Arthritis: A Game Changer

Then in June 2001, after months of ice, anti-inflammatories, and gutting out the pain, she called her physician. X-rays and MRIs revealed bone chips floating in her hip capsule. The verdict: Armstrong's hipbones were degenerating from osteoarthritis. Her days of impact sports were over.

Like the best arthritis athletes, Armstrong accepted the diagnosis, but she was no quitter. She focused on her recovery with the courage and commitment of a world-class athlete. Vioxx was her answer to the pain.