Sidelined snowboarder and Hanover High alum embraces new mission
This is snowboarder Kevin Pearce in action. Pearce, a Vermont native and 2006 graduate of Hanover High School in New Hampshire, suffered a traumatic brain injury on Dec. 31, 2009, while training for the Olympic trials. (Courtesy)
His new mission: inspiring others with brain injuries or disabilities to pursue their dreams. And he is embracing it with the same passion that landed him on top of the competitive snowboarding world when he was still a teenager.
The Moore Center serves individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injuries. Here's what Pearce wants them to know: "Anything's possible."
Pearce, who turned 26 on Nov. 1, is a 2006 graduate of Hanover High School. He learned to snowboard in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, where the tough conditions made him an equally tough competitor. "It's icy and it's hard, but that's what got me so good and really allowed me to become the rider I was," he said.
He was training for the Olympic trials when he crashed head-first in the half-pipe in Park City, Utah, on Dec. 31, 2009. The fall ended his Olympic dreams - and nearly his life.
He spent a month in intensive care followed by three months in a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado. He had to learn how to walk, talk, even swallow again.Pearce said he remembers "nothing at all" from the day of the crash - or the 27 days that followed.
Life for Pearce these days is about as different as it could be from the life of a professional athlete.
Before his injury, life was "focused on helping myself and doing as good I could," he said. "That was my goal, to go and win the Olympics."
On world stage
He's been to film festivals all over the world to promote "The Crash Reel." He's a "sports ambassador" for the National Down Syndrome Society.
"I'm still super busy; it's just busy in a whole different way," he said.
"It's been amazing having David, just because life is so hard and everything is so difficult for him, having Down syndrome. Everything happens so slow."
Growing up dyslexic, he said, "I hated school."
But snowboarding "felt like freedom."
"It was only me, and I could do whatever I wanted. And that was the most amazing thing ever, to have that feeling."
"I was so lucky and so fortunate to be able to get through it . I want to do whatever I can to help everyone else get through it the best way I can."
"Right now, all my buddies are over in New Zealand, training for the Olympics and getting ready for it," he said. "It's tough just knowing that's what I would be doing if this hadn't happened to me."
Pearce will travel to Russia for the Winter Olympics in February, where he will carry the Olympic torch in the opening ceremony.
"I've never been to the Olympics," he said. "I was ... close to going .
Pearce said he doesn't dwell on why the crash had to happen to him. "This happened and I've come to accept it . and come to understand I have a new life that I'm living now.
"I'm all about moving forward."
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