Written by guest contributor, "hardybear" of the wonderful Free Range Talk site:
"I'm twenty-four years old right now. And I've broken 23 bones," drawled one of the most laid back boarders competing in extreme snow sports this decade in Lucy Walker's exceptional documentary, The Crash Reel.
Hauntingly similar dramatic scenes and injuries in Sochi are piling up, and while Brian Williams has kept us abreast of the extreme and danger-laden runs of these young Olympians, Putin himself mustered a bedside manner to visit an athlete taken out by the unusually harsh course conditions. From NBC Nightly News.
Too Familiar. In 2010, the Vermont locals were gearing up for Vancouver Mania. We do have Bernie, Ben, and Jerry ... but in snow sports we send more micro-town talent to the Games than is truly fair (but then again we have one Representative to Congress for perpetuity) and in 2014 we waved 43 Green Mountain athletes off to make us hill people proud.
In the ramp-up to '10, Shaun White was rocking longer gingey locks and a cockier roll, sweet Hannah Teeter blew our minds and Kevin Pearce was getting the Bode-level buzz that indicated the Gold was his to lose in Men's Half Pipe.
Naturally, the media made a hot mess of a few rivalries in a sport so new and infuriatingly different that it was barely a pipe dream in 1983. Which has an oddly long-lasting personal significance for yours truly, as I spent the bulk of my first year back in Vermont from D.C. working out of Jake Burton Carpenter's home and first "factory" in nearby Manchester. I felt about 92 when I babbled that to Kevin within fifteen seconds of making nice. But you see, there weren't thousands of folks surfing ski slopes thirty years ago. [Legally.]
Stratton Mountain, now ever so posh but would yet still engage with the locals, let the Burton team (think crazee good ski talent fueled with the passion to surf mountains and whatever libations were required to sync raw courage and risk-junkie behavior) have at an old run long since given over to service or rescue equipment and experimentation. It was freaking amazing, and in my state they put you on skis before a tricycle. No poles to stab yourself with, zero 'yard sales' at the foot of the hill when one ski has gone horribly awry ... it was ridiculously fun. Addictive.
Riders like to feel there's a culture because a culture was created for and with them. It's an athlete driven sport that appeals to you in the soul. Humans are obsessed with getting air, and this is some gravity-defying joy.
The day I met Kevin, he had addressed an enormous conference in nearby Burlington, Vermont, before turning a very different kind of podium over to his wildly deep and delightful mother, Pia Pearce. When an audience member asked how the family could bear even the thought of him getting a second TBI (hey, we were all thinking it), she visibly struggled to remain composed. Then spoke gracefully of the dignity of risk -- that human right to place unusually costly odds on their own passions and unique abilities, and to ultimately find their own limits.
The Crash Reel floored the husband and I when we caught it by accident, as traumatic brain injury is close to home and work both. The director, Lucy Walker, guided us through Kevin's life-altering forks in the trail and the raw will it took for he and the absurdly well-suited Pearce family to bring him back post TBI ... and why he still rides.
Olympic Trials at Park Slope, Utah were at the height of the competitive arc during the last week of 2009. Pearce and Shaun 'The Flying Tomato' White shredded everything put in front of them and upped the ante on some of the newer half-pipe aerial feats.
When Pearce's Cab double cork twist took him helmet-to-pipe in a tragic slam landing, he was just 23 and in virtually immediate critical condition as his 'Frends' begged their bleeding brother to 'Stay with us, just stay with us Kev" as the medics rushed in.
And attends far too many funerals and ER vigils. Those are the harsh realities that have kept him out of competitive riding and full-on into his Love Your Brain campaign.
He fills a suitably awed Larry King in on his latest doings in January of this year, video courtesy Larry King Now and Hulu.
His younger brother, David, has what the family call Up Syndrome, so special medical needs and adaptive living were no new rodeo for Clan Pearce. Nor is training oneself to defy disability, both Kevin and his father have severe dyslexia; father Simon Pearce was self-admittedly dreadful at school as a lad in Ireland -- but is presently one of the world's most respected artisan glass blowers. They are a family of large hearts.
Of hard work and grand dreams. Fragility and absurd strength. We should all live so fully.
Healing never ends. I will win, not immediately, but definitely.
~ Kevin Pearce