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I was told I'd never walk again ...now I'm off to the Olympics

HE battled a brain injury, was told he'd never walk again and overcame a tumour -- but now gymnast Kieran Behan is embarking on a battle he never thought possible.

With the financial help of bake sales, car washes and labouring on construction sites, the 22-year-old will be one of Ireland's biggest medal hopes at the London Olympics.

Behan has been labouring with his father Phil's construction company in London to fund his Olympic dream but is now set to focus all his energy on July's games.

"I train six days a week, I'll train 12 till 4 and then from 5 till 9 and on Saturdays I would do four or five hours," he told the Herald.



agony

"It's a lot more intense now whereas before I had to really go by how I was feeling because obviously doing a very physical job like labouring and trying to balance a full-time gymnastics career is very, very difficult but now being on board with BT and the Olympic grant has really helped boost my career."

His chances were given a massive boost when BT Ireland offered a major sponsorship deal that allowed him to become a full-time athlete.

"It has helped me so much. It means that I don't have to worry about having enough money to get to training," he said.

"It means that I can get to training and I don't have to do the labouring and I don't have to do all the fundraising.

"It's enabled me to get into the gym and maximise my time there and to train full-time like all the other gymnasts."

Kieran's story is made all the more remarkable by the serious injuries and illness he has had to overcome.

A traumatic brain injury, nerve damage agony, wheelchair-bound months, thousands of terrifying blackouts and snapped knee ligaments have haunted the 5ft 3in gymnast since his childhood.

At 10, a tumour was discovered in his left thigh. The relief that it was not cancerous gave way to horror when the operation to remove it was botched.

He woke from the anaesthetic screaming, was told he may never walk again and spent 15 months in a wheelchair.

When he finally recovered he had an even more traumatic injury when he was 12, slipping from a high bar during training and suffering a brain injury.

"I had to relearn how to do everything again. I was out of gymnastics for three years and in a wheelchair for a long time," he said.

On the verge of representing Ireland for the first time in 2010, Kieran suffered yet another setback, when he ruptured a joint in his knee.



driving

"It was just setback after setback after setback but 2011 was my breakthrough year and I won three world cup medals and was crowned world cup series champion and then in January qualified for the Olympic Games."

Kieran has now targeted reaching an Olympic final in his specialised discipline, the floor, and when that's done he will start the more mundane task of getting a driving licence.

"Hopefully now I can afford to learn how to drive to be able to do what most people learn to do when they're 17," he added.

"When I've got a little break I can get driving because the sacrifices my parents have had to make, driving me for all those years to gymnastics."

hnews@herald.ie


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