O'Brien wins Paralympic silver after recovery from life-threatening accident

Kate O'Brien (Canada) wins silver in Tokyo
Kate O'Brien (Canada) wins silver in Tokyo (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Kate O'Brien's story is extraordinary. The 33-year-old Canadian started her sporting career as a bobsledder in 2013 before switching to cycling and competing on the track in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. One year after Rio, however, and O'Brien was fighting for her life after a freak accident left her close to death.

In the summer of 2017, O'Brien's tyre exploded as she was riding behind a derny on the track, catapulting her into the air and resulting in a crash that left her with cracked ribs, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung, and a serious head injury.

Doctors predicted that O'Brien would never be able to walk or speak properly again, let alone ride a bike or even compete, however she defied all odds and managed to return to the sport, eventually competing in para-cycling events.

In January 2020 at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, O'Brien won two golds and set two world records including a time of 35.223 seconds in the women's C4 500m time trial.

Ahead of competing at the Paralympic Games, O'Brien wrote on her Instagram page: "I never imagined that I would get to compete in the Paralympic Games. I wouldn't have believed anyone if they told me that I would. I don't do well with change. But, after 33 years on this planet, I am realizing that change is inevitable, and oftentimes, amazing."

Now, O'Brien has gone on to win a silver medal in the C4-5 time trial at the Tokyo Paralympic Games behind Great Britain's Kadeena Cox who set a Paralympic and world record during the event.

"It feels good. When I really think about the fact that I wasn't necessarily supposed to walk or ski or ride, it sort of blows my mind that I'm back on the track and doing the sport that I love," said O'Brien on her win. 

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