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Zakelj overcomes serious accident to return to racing with MBK Orbea

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Tanja Zakelj climbs a hill

Tanja Zakelj climbs a hill (Image credit: Luka Zele)
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Tanja Zakelj climbs a hill during her comeback race.

Tanja Zakelj climbs a hill during her comeback race. (Image credit: Luka Zele)
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Tanja Zakelj is fully concentrating.

Tanja Zakelj is fully concentrating. (Image credit: Luka Zele)
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Tanja Zakelj proves she is back.

Tanja Zakelj proves she is back. (Image credit: Luka Zele)

Under 23 women's cross country world champion Tanja Zakelj, 20, has returned to racing this spring despite a serious accident after the final World Cup race of the 2008 season last September.

While at home helping with a project in Slovenia, she accidently had two of her fingers on her left cut off. A third was badly damaged.

After the accident, she was immediately transported to the hospital by helicopter and had her fingers surgically reattached in a five-hour operation.

Recovery was painfully slow with several complications, but with the help of her coach and everyone around, she completed many long days of physiotherapy in time to resume an adjusted training program in February.

In the meantime, her former team, MBK CRNI VRH gathered new sponsors, registered with the UCI and reinvented itself as MBK Orbea.

Despite the doubts of her coach Luka Zele and team manager Primoz Strancar, Zakelj returned to racing last weekend at the Internazionali d'Italia - Trofeo Giorgio Senini. She exceeded all expectations and finished ninth overall and first in under 23 category, only 6:01 down.

Zakelj is looking forward to defending her rainbow jersey in Australia.

MBK Orbea Team for 2009: Tanja Zakelj, Nina Homovec, Luka Mezgec, Luka Kodra, Blaz Znidarsic, Matjaz Budin, Nejc Rutar (DH) Staff: Primoz Strancar (team manager), Luka Zele (coach), Marko Galjot (mechanic)