Shaun White’s fourth place Olympic finish will go down as one of the biggest disappointments for the United States at Sochi’s Winter Olympics, but four years ago White was beaming from the gold medal podium in Vancouver. But, if it wasn’t for one fateful injury, another person may have been named the winner at the previous winter games.
Kevin Pearce was seen as White’s biggest competitor before the Vancouver Olympics. Having grown up competing against each other, White and Pearce had a lifelong rivalry which was set to come to a climactic conclusion in Vancouver. But, two months before the Olympics Pearce suffered a severe brain injury while training.
Pearce’s story has become familiar with many throughout the US, as it was chronicled in the popular documentary The Crash Reel last year. After his injury, Kevin spend four months in Craig Hospital re-learning every part of his life.
“I wasn’t really able to even remember what I was thinking about until about a month-and-a-half later,” Peace said. “I forgot how to walk, like I forgot how to swallow. I didn’t know how to do those things.”
Four years later, Kevin is considered fully functional, though he still has some limitations from his injury. His career in snowboarding was over, and it took over two years for Pearce to even be able to snowboard recreationally.
“It’s interesting, because there were little bit of nerves where I was kind of like, ‘I might not remember how to do this,” Pearce explained. “But, when I got back on the board it just came right back and it was no problems.”
Pearce now spends his time mostly focused on his foundation called “Love Your Brain” which is focused on helping others deal with brain injuries, as well as disabilities like Down syndrome.
“The ability to help and, you know, the opportunity to be able to help other people is something that I really kind of latched onto and found to be very impactful and powerful for me,” Pearce told KUSA.
But, Pearce’s dreams of going to the Olympics have finally come true, even though he won’t be competing. Pearce will primarily be going as a spectator, but he was also a parrt of the torch carrying ceremonies for the final leg of its journey to Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.
“I was trying to go to Vancouver and that one didn’t happen and now it’s time for Sochi,” Pearce said. “It’s crazy and it’s going to be in a new way. I’m not going to be in the half-pipe.”
It isn’t rare to hear brain injury survivors talk about how their injury ended their way of life, but it is important to remember that is is also the beginning of a new life. While Kevin Pearce will never snowboard competitively again, he has become an important figure in educating the public and helping others overcome their injuries. For many, his journey to the Sochi Olympics is far more inspiring than his potential Vancouver results may have been.