Lukas Verzbicas plans to compete again after devastating crash
By Phil Arvia email@example.com August 21, 2012 11:03PM
Lukas Verbicas. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:18AM
He remains in a Colorado rehabilitation facility, recovering from a bicycle crash in the mountains and the multiple surgeries that followed. Yet, in his first interview since that July 31 accident, Lukas Verzbicas spent as much time discussing his return to world class triathlons as he did the wreck that left him without movement in his right leg.
“Going through all this, getting better, getting fully healthy, getting on top of things again, returning to that level,” Verzbicas told competitorradio.competitor.com last week, “I think down the road that will make me appreciate things even more.”
On July 31, Verzbicas, a two-time state cross country champion while at Sandburg, crashed into a guard rail in the mountains outside Colorado Springs. The 19-year-old suffered a broken thorax, two broken vertebrae, a broken clavicle and a partially collapsed right lung.
Verzbicas, who ran a 4-minute mile and won a world junior triathlon title while in high school, enrolled at the University of Oregon on a track scholarship, but left during his freshman year to devote his attention to triathlons. He turned pro and won a pair of races during the summer.
He recounted the crash to interviewer Bob Babbitt on Aug. 14.
“It was a beautiful day out here in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We were doing a ride with intervals but nothing too hard. It was hilly and we weren’t going too fast, but putting in some good efforts. It was me and a few other Triathlon Academy athletes, and we got to the last lap and I was going downhill and I had a sharp turn ahead and I got caught up in some wet sand because there was rain the night before. I kind of lost control of my bike and I tried to brake, but they didn’t do the job in the sand. I went straight into the barrier. I’ve been in the hospital ever since.”
Verzbicas transferred the day after that interview to a rehab facility. Doctors gave him no target date for departure. But, he noted, “I’m thinking of walking out healthy by September.”
Verzbicas’ surgeries included a procedure to drain blood from his lung and another to insert screws in his clavicle, which was broken into three pieces. The first operation was the most serious, a six-hour back procedure to insert “two big rods to stabilize my spine, with five or six rods to support it” that left him in intensive care for three days.
“After my back surgery I had some sensation in my right leg, but I couldn’t move it,” he said. “That was because my spine had been worked on a little bit. Right before my clavicle surgery I noticed I was able to start moving my right leg. Thank God.”
Since entering rehab, Verzbicas has tweeted photos and videos of himself walking and a photo of the new, lighter back brace he switched to Monday.
Those first steps on the road to recovery were essentially predicted by Verzbicas.
“There’s always an answer,” he said. “There’s always a solution as long as you really want it, and put your head to it, and work your ass off. You’ll get there.
“I want to prove to people that no matter what happens to you, you can overcome it and achieve great things and inspire others. That’s my goal. I want to help people now.
“I’ve realized a lot of things. It’s like a life-changing experience. I’m going to come back a different person. Hopefully, even better.”