Wednesday 7 December 2016

WATCH: Told he wouldn't walk again TWICE, snapped both cruciates and now living on a shoestring - Irish gymnast Kieran Behan

Published 18/05/2016 | 13:34

Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

He was warned he would never walk again after a tumour was removed from his leg, a nasty head injury left him with three years in rehab, he has snapped the cruciate ligament in both his knees but Ireland's Rio gymnast Kieran Behan refuses to be downbeat.

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The 27-year-old has qualified for his second successive Olympic Games after representing Ireland at London 2012 but is forced to work in construction to make ends meet as he bids for greatness on the biggest stage of all.

When he was just 10 years old, an operation on a benign tumour in his leg left him wheelchair-bound, and doctors warned that he would never walk again. But a determination to get back on his feet speeded up his recovery.

However, two years later he sustained a bad head injury during a fall, leaving him back in the wheelchair for some time.

Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

In 2010, he snapped his right cruciate ligament and soon after returning, he snapped his left one.

"The tumour in my left thigh left me wheelchair bound and completely out of action for about 15 months and then the head injury and I was told I wouldn't walk again. it took about three years to rehab back to where I was. Rupturing the cruciate ligaments in my knees... that's nine months for each one," said Behan, who is in Ireland at the launch of BT Young Scientist Exhibition 2017.

"A lot of setbacks and hard times, it's moulded me as a person and it's made me stronger. if people can get hold of my story and be inspired by it. Everyone goes through their own difficulties and their own obstacles in their everyday lives."

The sponsorship money he receives from BT, the small grant from the Irish Sports Council and funding from Gymnastics Ireland is not enough for Behan to compete and he needs to supplement his income in the London building scene.

"It is very difficult. If it wasn't for the support from the likes of BT, it would be a completely different story. I think it has kept me in the sport really.

"Gymnastics Ireland are supporting me as well and them things make a huge difference. It's always the way when you're in a sport that's not too high profile.

"I'm used to adversity and it's just another thing that I've got to overcome. The main thing for me is how I perform in Rio and that's what I'm going to focus on.

"Balancing the knee injuries I've had in the later part of my career has been very difficult and the financial struggle, especially the older I'm getting the harder it's getting. I'm 27-years-of-age and it's very difficult to be living on a shoestring.

"The support that I've got, I'm really trying to tap into it in the right way in terms of making sure I'm full prepared."

He believes that the experience he garnered in London four years ago and since makes him a better gymnast this time round.

Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Irish Gymnast Kieran Behan at the press launch for the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2017. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

"I'm a lot more prepared individually , I know my specific needs and what I need in my daily training regime, the nutrition side of things. I was definitely learning my craft in London and now I feel that I've harnessed all those skills and I'm really looking forward to getting out there."

Behan, who was born to a Dublin dad and Monaghan mother, secured a silver medal for Ireland at last month's Olympic test event in Rio where he qualified for the Games with his floor exercise.

"It's a massive competition, to secure a silver medal there and post the score that I posted, it definitely was a positive. I just want to stay fit and healthy and be fully prepared and be ready to go."

The 53rd BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition will take place in the RDS, Dublin from 11th -14th January 2017. 

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