The 2016 Summer Olympics are upon us and there are many inspiring stories about the athletes who will compete, but few match that of Irish gymnast Kieran Behan. When he was just a child, Kieran told his mother that he would be an olympic athlete. However, he did not know the challenges and obstacles that he’d have to overcome to do just that. Kieran became enamored with gymnastics at an early age and was taking lessons by the age of 8.
Only two years later, a lump the size of a golf ball was discovered on his leg. He went in to surgery to have the benign tumor removed only to have complications which caused severe nerve damage. He was left with limited feeling in his left foot and pain so bad that he would scream at the slightest touch. Doctors told him that the nerves might never regenerate and that he may not walk again. However, Kieran was determined to return to his sport and did not give up.
Fifteen months later, he was practicing gymnastics again. Unfortunately, his return was short-lived, as he had another major setback only eight months after that. While going through one of his gymnastic routines, he smacked his head on a metal horizontal bar. The result was a traumatic brain injury and severe damage to his inner ear. He began having difficulties with balance and co-ordination and reportedly blacked out after the slightest movement. This went on for months. For the second time in his life, doctors told him that he may never walk again and he was confined to a wheelchair. Again, Kieran was determined to prove them wrong. He did.
As if that weren’t enough, he went through a number of other unfortunate events including at least 5 knee operations, a broken arm, a fractured wrist and multiple visits to the hospital. Another injury in 2009 resulted in a ruptured ACL in his right knee that required six months of rehabilitation.
He was just six weeks away from his senior debut at the 2010 European Championships, when he tore his ACL in his other knee.
I’m happy to say that his luck began to change afterwards. Maybe it was the luck of the Irish, but more likely it was his fierce perseverance and desire that led him back to gymnastics. In 2011, he won three World Cup medals and became Ireland’s first World Cup Champion and he became only the second Irish gymnast to compete at an Olympics in 2012.
Kieran is excited to have another shot at the Olympics this year in Rio. Following a training session, he recently shared his hope: “Never, never, ever, ever lose hope…Everyone has their struggles — whether it’s economical, whether it’s physical, whether it’s absolutely anything.” “Everybody has that fire in them. I think you have to realise what it takes to light it for yourself and to never lose hope.”
Undoubtedly, Kieran has a fire inside of him that makes him refuse to give up no matter what his circumstances. We can all learn a lesson from this great Olympic athlete.
I know I’ll be watching him compete in Rio and hoping his dreams come true.
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Electric Ireland, the Official Energy Partner of Team Ireland for the Rio Olympics has unveiled its sponsorship campaign The Power Within. “The Power Within is about giving Team Ireland athletes a platform to tell their own stories of how they have overcome disappointment and use their self-belief to realise their dreams of becoming an Olympian. Our ambition is that these stories will inspire the Irish nation to look within themselves to find their own Power Within whether it’s the strength to plough through the final kilometre of a 10km run or find the courage to go for that job promotion.”