Marina Romoli trying to put near-fatal crash behind her
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Marina Romoli trying to put near-fatal crash behind her

by Bjorn Haake at 2:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
Former junior world champion silver medalist talks about her tough road back to life

Marina Romoli is recovering from her terrible accident on June 1, when a car driver cut her off as Romoli was doing interval training. More than two months on and several surgeries later, she still doesn't know when she can leave the hospital. Her days are busy with breathing exercises and physical therapy. Her motivation is to be able to walk again one day.

Romoli spent six days in a coma, before she had back surgery. She is in Villa Beretta, a hospital specialized in physical rehabilitation. After breakfast and the breathing exercises, she is merely warmed up. "Two hours in the gym to get back my mobility of my upper body; I still can't feel the lower part," she told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Romoli is fighting for a simple pleasure: "The independence." A lunch break and a rest give her breather. "Then it is back into the gym for two more hours." Sit-ups, back exercises - Romoli works hard all day long. "In the evenings I am so tired I fall asleep quickly. And dream. I dream to walk again." Her motivation doesn't stop at simply getting back her basic life. "The other evening, I also dreamed of riding my bike again."

The recovery process has been harder than any bike race she had ever done, but Romoli stays upbeat. She talks about how she was born twice: First on June 9, 1988 and to the day 22 years later. June 9, 2010, was not only her birthday, but she awoke from the coma and recognized her fiancé Matteo Pelucchi.

Vague memories

Romoli remembers the things that happened before the accident. "We were in a bar in Lecco for coffee, then started training." She was doing an interval at around 35km/h. Then her memory fades. "I don't remember anything from the week after the crash." With Pelucchi's and Samuele Conti's help (Conti is a friend who had joined them for the training session), she recalls the accident.

"A car driver cut in front of me, sending me over the bars. Matteo was right by me and Samuele went to the car to make sure the driver wouldn't run away." Pelucchi held Romoli's hand and calmed her down. "I received a hard knock in my chest, punctured my lung." Blood started streaming down her face. "My back really hurt, but Matteo told me that I was never unconscious."

After the 500 stitches in her face, after eye and back surgery she was finally able to get to the rehab place in Villa Beretta on June 24. "I still don't know when I can leave," she says.

Pelucchi had stopped training after the incident, but once Romoli was out of the coma she told him to continue. "You have to do it, as I don't know if I will be able to return."

Despite her bad experience, she continues to love cycling. "It is a tough but beautiful sport. The beauty of it is that after so much tiredness, you feel you have won even if you don't come in first." She calls her accident fate. "What happened to me, you can't blame on cycling, on bicycles or on me." She still has one regret. "I don't like it that the woman [who hit her] never came to apologize. I could have been her daughter," Romoli says.

The silver medalist at the 2006 junior world championships does not know if she can ever get back to racing, but she has a strong will to get back the control over her body and her life. For now she can still draw on the many memories of her sporting life. "My first victory in my second year [after racing in mixed races with boys the first year] came in Bovolone: around a hundred riders and I came in solo."


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