Javier Otxoa is looking forward to continuing his winning streak at the Beijing Paralympics, a winning run consisting of gold medals at the 2006 Worlds, the Athens Paralympics and a victory in the most important battle of all -- that for his life.
Otxoa won a stage of the 2000 Tour de France. Not just any stage, but the Hautacam stage, just seconds in front of Lance Armstrong. Seven months later, while out training with his twin brother Ricardo, the two were hit by a car. Ricardo died at the scene, and Javier spent two months in a coma. He lost part of a lung and suffered damage to his vocal chords, as well as a severed sciatic nerve and brain damage. Almost miraculously, he was back on his bike 21 months later.
In an interview with Reuters, he said that he only has blurred memories of his life before the accident. "I don't remember anything of the accident. I don't remember much about the Tour either, but I do remember that it was a really impressive event especially with fans at the roadside."
The accident, recovery and subsequent legal battle have been very difficult not only for him but also for his parents. "My father and mother saw that two of their sons were trying to follow a career riding a bike professionally and then a man driving into us destroyed everything for them. They were never given any explanation as to why he ran into us so it has always been very difficult for them. Matters weren't resolved until last year. It took so long to get a verdict."
He returned to the bike against the expectations of his doctors. "At the start, the doctors saw the outlook as being so bad that they said I would never ride a bike again, that I would be bed-ridden or in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Fortunately, and thanks to God, I have been able to ride again and although I still have some pain I think I am improving."
His return hasn't been easy, though. A fear of training on the road and chronic pain in his legs and back are not the only problems he has to overcome. "There are certain things that will always be difficult for me because of the accident, such as keeping my balance and the lack of strength in my left leg. It is also difficult for me to get out of the saddle when I'm riding and to look behind me because I get disorientated, so I always have to look ahead. Little by little and with hard work I feel more comfortable on the bike."
He has acquired a new fan in cycling great Miguel Indurain, who said, "He's kept going with a passion of his, a desire that he had from before the accident. It has taken great courage and effort. Many people would have given up or lost motivation after an accident like his but to carry on, overcome all the difficulties and improve over the course of the years is an incredible achievement."
Meanwhile, the Spaniard is happily anticipating next year's Paralympics. "I hope I can take part and win something there."