Peloton Watch
  Victoria Williamson determined not to let injuries stop her reaching the top  
  April 8th 2016  
  Victoria Williamson. Photo: vicswilliamson/Instagram  
  Three months on from a career threatening crash in the sprint final at Rotterdam Six-Day, rising British sprint star Victoria Williamson is on the road to recovery and determined not to let it stop her from reaching the top of the sport.

The opening months of an Olympic year have been far from what Williamson had hoped and have been the hardest of her life. Having spent four weeks in hospital, with three operations in a little over two weeks Williamson was able to return home after initially expecting to be there for twelve.

While the Rio Games are off the table, Williamson is not giving up on the Olympic dream with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2024 Games realistic possibilities for the 22 year old. Who in her still young career has claimed world championship bronze in the team sprint as well as a growing collection of European and British medals.

As her recovery proceeds quicker than expected Williamson is not getting ahead of herself and continues to take a cautious approach and will not rush a return to the bike, focusing on returning to life as a normal adult first.

Throughout the process Williamson has shared ongoing updates across social media and her blog. The support from not just friends and family but the public is something Williamson credits with helping her deal with the injuries and recovery process.

For many the crash may have raised doubts about returning to the sport. Not for Williamson. "Nope, never any doubt. I love the sport and there was never any doubt about getting back on the saddle!"

You don't remember the accident. What is the last thing you remember before and your first memory after?

The last thing I remember was holding onto the fence before Elis [Ligtlee] and I were about to go up to race, and watching Ellie [Richardson] and Laurine [Van Riessen] cross the finish line. I then remember waking up with Ellie above me saying that I had crashed and was in hospital. I was pretty high from painkillers, but remember actually asking Ellie if I had won the race and getting her to take a picture of me. I was also trying to say my phone passcode so she could get my family's numbers!

Three operations how much of a toll did this take on you not just physically but emotionally?

I had two operations in the first week in Rotterdam. The first one was to seal up the large de gloving injury down my back, which was actually done the night I came into hospital. The second one was a few days later and was to secure my pelvis, in which a 100mm pin was put into my right SIJ joint. I don't remember much from the first whole week in general as I was completely out of it with the painkillers, so physically and emotionally I wasn't very affected at this point. The one thing that did hit me however was when our team doctor Richard Freeman came to see me and said that Rio was 100% off the cards. That was quite hard to take, but at this stage I needed to just focus on my recovery. The third operation was back in the UK and saw five pins go into the bottom of the spine. The recovery from this was physically a lot harder as I had to sit up and walk after laying flat for three and half weeks. All I can say is my pain threshold is even higher now!

You have been very open on social media with updates on the recovery process, has sharing helped you through it?

The sharing has definitely helped me as I get such a positive response, from not only friends and family but the public as well. The more support I can get the better! I've documented the last three months on my blog and will continue to post throughout my rehab journey.

Recovery and rehab has been ongoing how has it gone and where are you at now?

I've had two hydrotherapy sessions and one physiotherapy appointment. In the upcoming weeks I can start to do the hydrotherapy sessions a few times a week outside of the hospital, and I also have a set of exercises from the physiotherapist to do on a daily basis. Everything's going well and everyone's surprised at how well I'm doing, which is always a good sign!

What has been the most difficult part of the recovery process?

The most difficult part has been to try and be patient and not rush things. I'm pretty sure most athletes will join me in saying that waiting for an injury to heal is extremely frustrating. Coming out of hospital was great news as I was actually supposed to be in there for 12 weeks, when I only stayed in for four. The recovery at home around friends and family has been great and they've helped me to stay positive. The time has actually flown by as it was three months since I crashed on the 2nd April.

You have recently removed the neck brace and also started hydrotherapy how is that going?

The neck brace is still on at times, but most of time it is off now. I have an appointment on 12th April so hopefully it will be gone for good then. Hydrotherapy is great and I'm loving exercising again. I've had enough of just sitting around the house along with rubbish day time TV!

As your recovery continues what do you think the biggest challenge is going to be?

The biggest challenge is going to be staying patient and not getting frustrated. I'm not going get back on a bike straight away and be back to the standard that I was, it's going to take time and a lot of hard work. I'm 100% prepared to work for it and I'm really excited to get things moving over the next few weeks!

In the hospital in Rotterdam there were concerns about paralysis has the crash changed the way you look at things? Not just cycling but life in general?

It's definitely made me more thankful for being able bodied, and living a normal life. The fractures in both my neck and back were just millimetres from my spinal chord, so I was extremely lucky. David Smith MBE, an athlete on the Paralympic squad, has also been through an incredibly tough journey these past few months, and I can assure you that myself and him are both very thankful to be where we are now!

Had a lot of support from your GB teammates and British Cycling how important has this been for you?

It's been great and has really helped me to stay so positive. Obviously I have had bad days, as it was never going to be smooth ride, but having great support around me has spurred me on even more. A lot of riders came to see me in hospital, as well as once I was out. Now I can get around a bit more I have plenty of time to catch up with everyone.

Home World Championships for you this year how difficult was it not being there racing?

Admittedly it was quite hard at times to watch as I really wished I could of been there competing. However it was great to see the GB Team do so well across the board, especially some of the surprise medals. That made it even more exciting to watch!

At 22, Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 and even 2024 are still potentially options for you has that made it easier to deal with the disappointment of missing Rio?

Definitely. I'm only 22 and my career is only just beginning. I've got 2 more Olympics to aim for as well as numerous World Cups, European Championships, World Championships, and Commonwealth Games. All I can do now is look forward, and I'm excited for the future.

Going forward the focus is just on recovering fully and not setting any specific targets and dates on getting back on the bike and returning to racing?

Full recovery and rehabilitation back to a normal adult is my first priority, and then begins the rehab on the bike. No dates have been set yet to get back on the bike, or even return to racing. No one knows when this will be, and I think it's important I go into rehab with an open mind and no time scales. Although I'm hoping I will be back on a watt bike very soon!!

You can follow Victoria's recovery process on Twitter and Instagram and her blog for continued updates.
 © 2016