Kevin Pearce back on the slopes - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Kevin Pearce back on the slopes

File photo File photo
File photo File photo
File photo File photo

Breckenridge, Colorado - December 13, 2011

Though the video was taken by an amateur photographer, its significance is major. Kevin Pearce, seen in a blue jacket, is back on his snowboard for the first time after suffering a traumatic brain injury while training for the Olympics in 2009.

"Basically Kevin went up out of the half-pipe and as he came down he caught his head on the edge of the pipe," said Dr. Matthew Gammons of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Teams.

And though Pearce was wearing a helmet, Gammons says it didn't help

"He actually hit kind of more lower on his face than on the side where the helmet wasn't protecting him," Gammons explained.

At the time, doctors questions whether Pearce-- then just 23-- would ever walk again, let alone snowboard.

"Different people need different types of rehab, whether it be more along the lines of how the brain functions or the balance and strength and coordination," Gammons said. "In Kevin's case it was a lot of the latter so that he could get back on a snowboard."

Pearce, seen in a recent YouTube video, says his persistent physical therapy is what made the difference.

"I really focused on getting my eyes better, getting my balance better and just overall working harder in the physical therapy, getting everything back dialed in. You know, I feel that all of that has helped so much and it's got me into this perfect position where I feel so good to get back out there and so much more comfortable than I did a year ago," Pearce said.

And he sure looked comfortable Tuesday as he hit the slopes out in Colorado.

"So, I guess snowboarding is such a big part of me, it really defines the person I am. It kind of comes through in so many different ways. It's just gonna be so cool to get back to that. I feel like it's such a huge thing that's been missing in me. It's just so exciting that I'm going to get that back," Pearce said.

And he isn't the only one who's excited. At mountains across Vermont Tuesday, skiers and riders said they're thrilled to see Pearce back on the slopes.

"It's good to have him back. I've always looked up to Kevin Pearce as a younger rider. When I found out he got hurt training for the Olympics, super bummin'. I've always looked up to him and followed him. I ride for Kevin, you know," said Drew Abramovich, a snowboarder.

"It seemed like a pretty significant injury they thought that maybe he would possibly not be able to walk again, so the fact that he's back on a snowboard, I think, is awesome," snowboarder Kagan Prouty said.

Gammons says Pearce may never recover enough to compete again, but that Pearce's goal has always been just to get back on his board.

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