Even earlier than the emergence of COVID-19, Kate O’Brien was accustomed to her private recreation plan going off observe.
Sure, she has no thought when she’ll have the ability to race on the worldwide stage once more. And positive, she actually has no clue if the Tokyo Paralympics will go forward subsequent yr or be cancelled outright.
But O’Brien, 32, realizes there are not any ensures in life no matter whether or not we’re residing in a world pandemic.
She is a bobsledder who turned to trace biking after narrowly lacking out on qualifying for the 2014 Winter Games. She is a 2016 Summer Olympian. She is a survivor of a horrific bike crash that put her in a coma and left her mother, an emergency room nurse, ready to listen to if her daughter would dwell or die.
She additionally has epilepsy, one more problem that will not cease her from chasing her desires.
“There’s only so much you can control,” the para-world biking champion says from her coaching base in Vancouver. “Sometimes, you just need to take a step back and breathe.”
O’Brien could not breathe on her personal after she crashed in a observe biking demonstration at Calgary’s Glenmore Velodrome in July 2017. When her rear tire blew, she hit the again of the pacing motorcycle in entrance of her, catapulting her up the observe.
Paramedics rushed the unresponsive O’Brien to hospital the place she underwent emergency surgical procedure to alleviate the stress on her mind. She additionally suffered a laundry record of different accidents together with a punctured lung, cracked ribs and damaged clavicle.
“I flew out to Calgary with the idea I was there to help her mom with organ donation and that kind of thing,” says Meghan Grant, O’Brien’s fiance and former member of the Canadian observe biking crew.
“I thought I was going there to say good-bye.”
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Over the following two months, medical professionals warned O’Brien that she would by no means once more stroll, by no means experience a motorcycle or by no means communicate correctly. The finish of her elite sports activities profession appeared sure.
O’Brien listened to these dire predictions, however she refused to imagine them.
Upon launch from hospital, O’Brien labored tirelessly together with her residence physiotherapists. They set her bike up on rollers, pushed it towards a wall and shaped a human semi-circle in case she toppled.
She stayed upright, and biking grew to become considered one of her main technique of transportation on the street to restoration.
“Following her journey from even before her accident, you knew that you were witnessing a very rare athlete,” says Curt Harnett, a three-time Olympic medallist in biking who served as Canada’s chef de mission on the 2016 Rio Summer Games. “She’s determined, resilient, and she’s a fighter.”
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Not that it was straightforward. She felt like giving up the struggle within the fall of 2018 when she began to expertise seizures, resulting in an epilepsy prognosis.
“I refused to accept it,” she says. “I refused to go on medication. I was just so ashamed.”
Her life grew to become smaller and smaller. She did not drive. She did not experience her bike. She was too scared to go to sleep and too scared to take a bus for worry of a seizure.
‘Change is a part of life’
Until sooner or later, she realized she might maybe cycle and revel in her life once more with assist from medicine and private analysis into how one can preserve seizures at bay.
“The truth is, stuff isn’t back to normal,” says O’Brien, who not too long ago celebrated a yr and not using a seizure. “But I’ve realized that `normal’ is just a word. My life will never be the same as it was, but that’s not a bad thing. Things don’t need to stay the same all the time.
“I’ve realized that change is a part of life, good, dangerous or ugly, however that is one of many nice issues about being human.”
In January, O’Brien represented Canada at the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.
She won two world titles and set two world records.
“There is a motive she is admired by all who cross her path,” Harnett says. “She is a rockstar athlete with a humble `did I simply try this’ perspective. That’s fairly particular.”