Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Olympic place remains long-term goal for sprinter Vicky Barnes after horror crash

Recovery has been slow and painful - but she's not giving up...

A promising sprint cyclist who broke her neck in a horror crash has spoken of her desire to compete again.

Vicky Barnes fractured her neck and back, dislocated her pelvis and slipped a disc in her neck, in a crash at the Six Day meeting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam early last year, as we previously reported.

Although doctors feared at first that Vicky, 24, a 2013 World Championships bronze medallist under her maiden name Williamson, was paralysed.

"I had people tell me that it's not possible. You're trying to get to that 0.1% of the population that compete as elite athletes having broken your neck, back and pelvis - it's not feasible," she told BBC Sport.

"Once people got to know me and the people I work with, and I started to overcome stuff I probably shouldn't have, it was like 'this girl means business'."

"I was holding on to the fence to get up before the race and a Dutch guy jokingly offered me a sip of his beer," says Barnes. "The next thing I remember is being in and out of consciousness. Apparently I stood up, I don't remember that.

"I asked my team-mate Ellie Richardson to take a picture of me. At the time I had no idea how badly injured I was, but Ellie said she saw my bare spine.

"When I initially crashed, I hit the fence, which is what split my back open. It was like a motorbike accident, I stuck to the track and that forced my skin to rip open.

"Rotterdam is one of the best hospitals in Europe for trauma," adds Barnes. "They did a really good job.

"I had to lay completely flat, I was log-rolled to stop me getting pressure sores, but didn't have any incline on the bed or any sitting up until four weeks, which was after the back surgery in the UK.

"I don't like flying anyway, but the little aeroplane they flew me back in did not feel safe. I was strapped to a board and had a couple of people sat in the back with me - it was by no means luxury.

"When they did surgery, they extended the scar slightly to get into my pelvis and I then had back surgery at Stepping Hill, which left a smaller straight scar - that's where they put the lumber spine pins.

"I have another tiny mark on the side, which is where in the UK they added to the pelvis pins from Rotterdam. It was hollow, but in the UK the surgeon wasn't happy it was hollow, so he put a pin through the middle to give it more stability.

"The back surgery in the UK took eight hours with all the pins and about four hours in Rotterdam to put one pin in.

"Every operation was near the spinal cord, especially the pelvis and the fractures in my neck," she added.

"You sign a sheet which says 'risk of paralysis' but I needed the surgery, so I just had to tick it and carry on. You trust the surgeon. Especially in the UK, I still have a good relationship with him; he messages me to see how I am doing."

She said it was only recently that she had the idea of getting back into training.

"I was under medical care until March this year, because we've gone with the idea of 'before we can make you into an athlete, you need to be a normal, functioning human'.

"Until March, the bone graft hadn't healed and I wasn't in a position to try and become an elite athlete. That's why I was under the care of the NHS. I had regular contact with the medical team at British Cycling, but wasn't necessarily under their coaches.

"Until I became a normal human, there was no point in trying to chase the performance.

"I am coming out of the rehab-gym programme now and on my last two stints at the rehab unit, then I'll be back with the team," says Barnes.

"We are moving more into performance, so I will start loading, squats, deadlifts, all the compound movements in order to get my power back as an elite athlete.

"I am due to finish hopefully at the end of January at the rehab unit. The idea is I will be physically really strong and brute, and then transfer it on to the bike.

"Then I am back and ready to go, and it's just a case of learning to ride a velodrome again.

"The Commonwealth Games is still likely at the minute, but until I get on a velodrome I can't tell you how good I am going to be," she says. "I'll be fit, tip-top condition, but won't have been on a bike.

"I am thinking more about process goals at the minute. Gym targets. If the outcome of Commonwealth Games is do-able, then great, it's a bonus at the end, but if not I will be pushing towards the World Cup season.

"Next year we'll only be two years away from Tokyo, but that's the long-term goal, to get an Olympic place."

Add new comment


BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
1 like

Good that British cycling have supported her throughout and helping her back into the fold, let's hope she can come back stronger both mentally and physically.

kil0ran | 6 years ago



OrangeRidley | 6 years ago

My god this puts it all into perspective doesn't it?!?! Well done her.

EddyBerckx | 6 years ago

Gigantic kudos!!! Fingers crossed for her

Latest Comments