Un-paralyzed cyclist training for Olympics

Eric Pfeiffer
December 8, 2011

Paralympic silver medalist Monique van der Vorst has experienced a truly amazing and unexplained recovery from her injuries and is now considered a hopeful for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 27-year-old Van der Vorst had been paralyzed from the waist down since she was 13. But in a strange twist, she was hit by a bicycle last year during training for the 2012 London Paralympics. Somehow, the injury appears to have reversed her paralysis.

"I wanted to jump in the air for joy," van der Vorst said. And now, she literally can.

The two-time Paralympic medal winning handcyclist has begun training with the Rabobank women's professional cycling team as a "top-class able-bodied athlete."

While recovering from the trauma, van der Vorst's feet started to tingle and miraculously she began to move them again. From that point on she spent months in the hospital and in the rehabilitation centre trying to regain the use of her legs. Doctors have no explanation for her amazing recovery. Some believe the trauma of her last accident may have jolted her body back into activity.

Van der Vorst gives her years of previous athletic training credit for her rapid recovery. "My development has been very quick. I never could have imagined one year ago I would be here," she said. "All the training I did in the last 10 years gives me a good base."

As miraculous as her recovery has been, van der Vorst admitted giving up her former sport did create some mixed feelings. She is leaving behind a substantial legacy in her former sport: Three-time world handcycling champion, two silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, 2009 Dutch disabled athlete of the year and the first handcycle athlete to win the 2009 Ironman world championship in Hawaii.

"Although walking is the best thing you could do in life, I immediately missed the sport, the people and the challenges," she said.

Van der Vorst is still working to compete with her fellow Rabobank riders, but is already seen as a hopeful contender to make the next Olympic team.

"The spirit is in my body," she said.

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