In our first installment of My Story Vancouver we hear the compelling journeys of Karen and Paul, two Age Group athletes who overcame lifes obstacles to make it to Vancouver using sport as their muse. Stay tuned for more motivational tales as My Story - Vancouver continues.
Karen Newman USA Olympic World Championships Women 45-49
The 2009 Vancouver World Championships will be a particularly special for me because I will be racing right after receiving my fourth round of chemotherapy. Yes it is true, at the young age of 47; I have just been diagnosed with stage 3-breast cancer.
To be perfectly honest, absolutely no one would have picked me to have cancer. I have NO family history; no obvious risk factors; Ive been a 5 time ALL American Triathlete; a 4 Time World Competitor (Vancouver will be my 5th Worlds); I am a Registered Dietitian in Private Practice with a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition; I am a certified childhood and adolescent weight management counselor; I am a USAT certified coach who teaches track at the local elementary school; I married my soul mate and we have three amazing boys ages 9-15; I have devoted my life to good nutrition and sports and here I am with breast cancer that has spread.
As shocking as this news is to everyone, I have never felt so blessed in my whole life. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming and makes me realize that I am here to journey on this path for a reason. God is with me every step of the way. My gift will be life and the opportunity to give back to the world in ways that I could never have imagined before. I feel a great desire to show the world that life goes on with cancer and you CAN workout and you CAN enjoy each and every day. I am blessed with the best oncologist and medical team who have been incredible supporters of my athletic endeavors. Thank goodness we live in the 21st century! !! In fact, not only are the sending me to Worlds with their blessings, they gave me the go ahead to race in a competitive biathlon 10 days ago and I placed 6 overall for women.4 of whom are going to Worlds!!! The race was amazing, I felt fabulous and the most incredible part for me was when the race director (at registration) gave me the number 1 and told me that I would always be his champion. I cried at how kind the gesture was.
This years Worlds will be about racing with God in my heart. I will be racing for all those battling cancer, for the United States, for my friends and family, and especially for my boys. I will treasure each momentthe parade of nations, the dinners with other athletes, the beauty surrounding us, the wonderful friends I have made over the years, Tim Yount cheering us on and remembering all of our names (I am still in awe), the race itself with all the excitement and SO MUCH MORE. This year, instead of focusing on winning a medal or placing in the top ten, I will remember what a gift it is to be at the World Championships and what a gift each and every day is to all of us.
I believe that if we never walked or crawled through the valleys, the mountaintops would never be as spectacular as they are when we finally reach the top.
See you in Vancouver!!!!
Paul Gardner GBR Sprint World Championships Men 45-49
In 1992 whilst driving back from a basketball match I was hit head on by a stolen car driven by someone drunk and racing a friend. It was late at night and he had turned off his headlights so that his friend could not see him coming. Neither did I.
The impact speed was well over 120mph and after 3 somersaults I ended upside down in a field trapped in my car. The first people on the scene turned over the car and robbed me, leaving me to be found by the emergency services later. I was trapped in the car with extensive injuries for over 3 hours, eventually being cut out of it. My pelvis was broken in 5 places, my left arm was in two pieces, my right femur had snapped and both ankles were broken. My left knee cap was smashed and my right calf had been torn off in removing me from the car. In addition I had several damaged vertebrae and extensive lacerations to the face along with a broken jaw, nose and concussion. The deceleration had also been so severe that I also lost blood supply to part of my intestines resulting in an resection of some 5 feet meaning that I have to take drugs to regulate the passage of food and vitamin B12 which now cannot be synthesised from food.
I was patched together over the year that followed and I now compete with several plates, bolts and bits of metal inside me. Although I had been told that walking would be a problem and that any serious sports were a non starter I worked hard and 2 years later was back playing tennis to a decent level.
In 2005 my mother died of Cancer and I decided in 2006 to raise funds for charity by taking on something difficult for me. I chose Triathlon and the London Sprint event. The training became addictive and although I was late in applying the day dawned glorious and hot and saw me compete as a novice and finish respectably. Friends and family, the people that had looked after my mother and me in hospital all donated a fantastic amount.
For me, I was hooked and practiced all through 2006, finally securing a place at the 2007 Hamburg World Championships where I was proud to represent my country as Captain for my age group.
There I witnessed great camaraderie and a fantastic AWAD event that inspired me to a PB in the swim, having only swam that distance 3 times before. Having spent time in a wheel chair it reminded me how lucky I was that I eventually got back on my feet, something that many of the AWAD athletes could not do.
I had become used to competing and compensating how I could for my injuries, finding it hard to take on fully fit and injury free athletes and sometimes making excuses for poorer performances. Having watched the AWAD and seen what they accomplished I resolved to be happier with my lot. Since then I have wanted to repeat the experience of world class competition and when I heard that the event in 2008 was to be in Vancouver, a place I had always wanted to visit then I redoubled my efforts, eventually securing a reserve place for this years event. I also undertook the first two levels of the BTF coaching scheme passing both at time of writing figuring that I would also get better coaching others.
So now all that remains is to improve on last years placing, which should not be hard it was that low! I now look at myself as happier person, in better shape than I have ever been and enjoying the lifestyle that Triathlon offers. 3 weeks will show whether or not the hard work has paid off but Im going to enjoy the show anyway, as it looks very different from one of the outcomes I could have had all those years ago. Now I just have to conquer the fact that Ive never done a sea swim, I feel another look at the AWAD competitors coming on!