“I Was Put in a Kind of Bag” – Dutch Cyclist Overcomes Devastating Spinal Crash to Emerge as Olympic Contender With Epic Comeback

Published 11/12/2023, 2:24 AM EST

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Cycling tracks witness fast-paced wheel spins despite many stances of potential disasters. Upholding the essence of the high-spirited sport, Philip Heijnen has made history with his indomitable passion. Almost a year ago, the Dutch athlete was entangled in a dreadful crash, altering the course of his professional life. While the injuries were tragically severe, Heijnen was forced to halt his riding sessions, undergoing an exhilarating recovery.

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However, pedaling through the brutal twist of fate, the cycling sensation swiftly carried the weight of his dreams. His journey from a harrowing crash to Olympic aspirations was nothing short of a gripping tale, inspiring many in the sports community. Enduring four days of agony in a hospital bed, Heijnen was on the verge of leaving his cycling career, when a photograph changed his perception. Remarkably, with renewed enthusiasm, the iconic athlete embarked on a fresh chapter of his life, hoping to win back his gameplay.

Battling through discouraging cycling mishap

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Enduring the cruel ballet of an Omnium race in Ghent, Belgium, Heijnen’s fate took a dark turn in April 2022 when he broke his back in a heart-stopping moment. Attempting to navigate a crash in front of him, he found himself hurtling through the boarding, demanding immediate medical assistance. Immobilized after the fatal cycling accident, Heijnen was rushed to the hospital, where the scans revealed a shocking picture. Apparently, his physique portrayed severe injuries, hinting at a tough time ahead.

With four fractured vertebrae from L1 to L4, the physical pain seemingly consumed Heijnen’s peace while a mental battle ensued in no time. Confined to a hospital bed, he faced the haunting prospect of the worst-case scenario, a stance that gladly never materialized. While the echoes of a teammate’s lengthy recovery intensified his fears, the cycling professional decided to sketch a different outcome, seeking solace with therapy. Soon, his guiding voice helped him acknowledge the inherent risks of life as Heijnen reclaimed his love for cycling.

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Resilient return from turmoil to triumph

Amidst the pain, the iconic cyclist contemplated abandoning the sport, haunted by the risk of never walking again or being confined to a wheelchair. Yet, in the end, the allure of cycling proved too potent to resist. Giving credits to his therapist, Heijnen mentioned getting assured on every step. Drawing parallels between the perils of cycling tracks and unforeseen hazards of everyday life, he started planning to make a comeback.

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Recalling the painful racing day, he stated, “I was put in a kind of bag, with air. They couldn’t really move me.” Within six weeks of his spine-shattering crash, Heijnen defied expectations, returning to the track. Remarkably, it led him to the UCI Track Champions League, where the cycling star aimed for the illustrious rainbow bands and Olympic glory. Claiming the title of under-23 European champion within three months, he wanted to earn more medals, pursuing excellence in the Track Champions League.

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Suffering such a heavy toll on his body, the pro cycling rider narrated feeling a decade older, while having to undergo regular physiotherapy sessions. As Philip Heijnen raced towards the season’s finale in London, the thought of giving up was now a distant memory. In the grand tapestry of sports, his astounding narrative against health issues ultimately turned all adversities into fuel for relentless cycling greatness!

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Written by:

Sanchari Bhaduri

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Sanchari Bhaduri is a Viral Sports Moments writer at EssentiallySports. Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from IGNOU, she embarked on her content creation career in 2015 with freelance projects. Her previous role involved her serving as a Content Manager for Reddit.
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Edited by:

Arnima Shukla

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