Six months ago, ETU European Middle Distance Champion Camilla Pedersen lay in a coma – her life, never mind her triathlon career, in the hands of doctors.
Now, the Great Dane has just finished a three week training camp at Club La Santa in Lanzarote, where, in the words of bystanders, she is ‘training hard’, testament to a remarkable recovery, a resilient character and an inspirational story.
On the 3rd September 2013, Pedersen was riding in her native Denmark ahead of a training trip in Mexico followed by another in Hawaii. A few hours later she was being induced into a coma by the medical staff at Odense University hospital.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” recalls Pedersen, “We were riding and we passed some kids just outside the forest, I had to pull out a bit to my left and I hit a back wheel. I didn’t have time to react and my head took the punishment.”
Pedersen suffered a broken cranium, a brain fracture, a broken femur , a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a chestbone compression and a shoulder injury. Her life was in grave danger.
She was induced into a coma to ease the pressure on the brain where she remained for 19 days, before being transferred to Hammel Neurocenter.
“The first time I woke up, on 28th September, I said I need to be in Hawaii,” said Pedersen. But the gravity of the situation soon dawned on the 2011 ETU Long Distance Champion as she realised this would be her biggest challenge.
“I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t walk,” she said. “I was in a wheelchair but I said to myself I’m not going to sit in a wheelchair, I’m going to get better, I’m going to win this battle.
“I spent a week crawling on my hands and knees and after a week I stood up.”
It was the beginning of an incredible recovery which, six months on, has seen Pedersen complete five weeks at Club La Santa training on the bike, return to the swimming pool in January and set her sights on competitive racing and a return to the triathlon podium.
“I missed my sport. It’s not easy to be a triathlete at the best of times but I was just so positive. I knew I would win this battle.
“I was really excited to get back on the bike. I didn’t have any fear or concerns, I guess I just missed it too much.”
Pedersen has targeted a return to competitive action before the end of the year, and beyond that, a return to the podium and the reclaiming of her Long Distance and Middle Distance European titles.
The Danish National Champion was humbled by the reaction of the triathlon community, one of the primary reasons for her determination to return to the sport and get back to her best.
“I can’t explain how much support I’ve had from my National Federation, from family and friends. It’s the reason I’m fighting back.
“I’m in a really good place, I’m really happy. I’m not afraid of anything. It was an accident, these things happen and it could have happened to anyone.
“I don’t know how long it will take but I am determined to get back to my best.”
With such a positive attitude, it surely will be a case of when, not if, Pedersen returns makes a successful return to International European triathlon racing.