If you need a feel-good story, this is it.
27-year old Monique, from Holland, has been partially paralysed from the hips down since the age of 13, and then completely lost the use of both legs in a bike accident in 2008. But she didn’t let that deter her. She became one of the world’s most proficient hand-cyclists, winning 2 Paralympic silver medals and 6 European and 3 World Championship titles. She was also elected Dutch disabled athlete of the year in 2009 and was the first handcycle athlete to win the 2009 Ironman world championship in Hawaii.
But last year she was hit by a bicycle while training in her wheelchair for the 2012 London Paralympics. This time her body went into spasm. Can you imagine her surprise when, as she was recovering from the trauma, she began to feel her feet tingling? She spent months in the hospital and in the rehabilitation centre and was walking by the end of the year. “I wanted to jump in the air for joy,” she said earlier this week, and recalled how great and surprising it was to look at herself standing in front of a mirror.
“The sudden change of standing after being in a wheelchair is indescribable because suddenly the whole world has a different perspective,” she said. “It is really nice walking next to someone and being able to look straight into that person’s eyes.”
Doctors are unable to explain her amazing recovery.
Reference the video it’s easy in hindsight to say “So they said”. But they didn’t take into consideration that this girl is indomitable. She has recently been given one of only 11 places in the Rabobank women’s professional cycling team with the aim of competing in the 2016 Olympics!
Her road back to able-bodied top athlete hasn’t all been easy. She nearly crashed the first time she got on an able-bodied racing bicycle, but got straight back on and completed a painful and slow 30 km training route. She has not looked back since.
“What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger” said Friedrich Nietzsche and if ever a philosophy has been adopted successfully, it’s this one by Monique van der Vorst.
Imagine if she gets onto the podium in London next year? That would certainly be a first… from Paralympics to a top-class able-bodied athlete at the Olympics. Fantastic. What a tale.