Shone takes a giant step back after horror crash
21:04 GMT, 13 October 2012
On Tuesday, Serita Shone will push a bobsleigh for the first time since she broke her back in a 70mph accident which doctors feared would leave her paralysed for life.
Her return may be confined to the dry push-start track at Bath University, but Shone's re-acquaintance with a bobsleigh symbolises the remarkable recovery she has made a year after her terrifying crash in Germany, where she was a novice brake-woman in a two-seater bobsled practicing for her first competition, at the British championships.
When driver Fiona Harrison lost control in the fastest sector of the Winterberg track and their bobsleigh overturned, Shone was slammed against the ice beneath the weight of the 175-kilogram sled where she lay motionless like a rag doll.
Comeback: British Bobsleigher Serita Shone
She had to be airlifted to Marburg
University where only the skills of a surgeon, who performed two
highly-complex operations on her spine five days apart, spared her from a
future spent in a wheelchair.
Yet every day since has been a challenge for the 23-year-old from Weymouth.
'I have tried to stay strong,' said
Shone last week. 'But I am not Superwoman. There have been times, really
dark days, when I felt I just couldn't go on. I felt I'd come so far,
but it wasn't far enough. It felt like I'd failed myself and let
everyone else down.'
So, the call she received five days
ago inviting her to Bath from Gary Anderson, the performance director of
the British bobsleigh team, was the kind of tonic unavailable on
'I couldn't find the words to tell Gary how much it meant,' explained Shone.
Neither Anderson nor Shone are
deluding themselves that her appearance at the push-start track will
lead to her being able to fight for a place on the British team at the
2014 Winter OIympics in Sochi, Russia.
But is a start, at least. 'Before I
can tell myself I have beaten this injury, I need to get to the point
where I have finished a race,' said Shone.
'That to me is winning. Anything
after that will be a bonus.' Shone had only received medical clearance
to resume bob-specific training 12 days ago, when consultant spinal
surgeon Evan Davies reminded her on her last visit to see him at the
Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton: 'Do you realise how lucky you
are, Serita You should be paralysed.'
She confesses she barely slept for a week before that consultation. 'I had nightmares every night,' said Shone.
'The closer the appointment got the
more frightened I was. I couldn't picture with how I would deal with
being told I was unfit to return to the sport.'
Outwardly, Shone is vivacious, a
young woman with an insatiable appetite for adventure that is
undiminished by her traumatic experience.
Yet sometimes appearances can be deceptive. 'I should be grateful how things are going – and I am,' she said.
'I can lead a normal life, but what I
want is the opportunity to prove to people that I can still be an
athlete. It's what I want most. I genuinely don't know what the future
holds, but at least the news from my consultant, then the call from
Gary, has been just brilliant. I know it's the start of the next long
road, but at least it feels like leaving the dark and dingy road I have
been on behind me.'
She admits she reached out to
psychologists when the sequence of her rehabilitation programme
stretched ahead of her like a series of mountain peaks to be conquered
'It's not nice putting yourself in the firing line of failure every day,' said Shone.
'No matter what you are trying to
attempt you may not be fit enough, strong enough or capable enough. For
six months, I didn't fully understand what had happened. I shut
everything off. You become good at adapting a self-coping mechanism; and
I became very good over the last year at masking pain, and hiding my
'To begin with I didn't think I
needed any psychological help. But when everyone else was getting
excited about the new season, it hit home that I might not be involved
and that everything could be over. I thought life was unfair as I had no
choice in the matter. I was struggling ….and I realised I couldn't do
this on my own anymore.'
In the earliest days she saw Amanda
Gatherer, then more recently consulted Tig Calvert at the intensive
rehab unit at Bisham Abbey.
'I do realise things can't get worse from here.'
Shone will continue to receive
financial support for her on-going rehabilitation from the British
bobsleigh team, and she makes a modest income from being an athlete
mentor visiting schools, or clubs.
'I am really thankful to the bobsleigh team, yet like most athletes I am on the look-out for sponsorship,' she said.
In this summer of extravagant
success for British sportsmen and women, Shone has a narrative to sell
that, within its own context, is just as inspirational: her courage,
dedication and a refusal to yield to the overwhelming odds stacked
against her reflect a woman with star quality. Shone has only to shut
her eyes to recapture of that terrible day of October 26, 2011.
'I remember I screwed up my eyes, gritted my teeth and hung on for grim death,' she said.
'The noise of my helmet clattering
against the track was like ice in a blending machine. I had a searing,
burning pain in my back. I could hear people coming towards me, their
ice spikes crunching along the track. I remember being told that medics
were on the way, and being asked if I knew my name.'
She smiled, 'I knew my name, I knew exactly what happened. I just couldn't move.'