Victoria Williamson determined to recover from career-threatening injuries to make Team GB return
- Credit: Steve Adams
The Olympic dream may be on hold for Victoria Williamson but the injured Norfolk cycling star still has high hopes for the future, as she talks to David Freezer about her rehabilitation battle.
There is no doubt in Victoria Williamson's mind that she will get her career back on track, even though the Hevingham cycling star must first learn how to walk again.
Williamson is emerging from the toughest two months of her career and turning attentions to reviving her dreams of representing Team GB at the Olympics.
The 22-year-old looked on course to make those dreams a reality in Rio this summer but following a career-threatening crash at the Rotterdam Six-Day event in January, those plans have had to be shelved.
The former Norwich High School for Girls pupil was hospitalised for four weeks with a range of serious spinal injuries, neck fractures, a dislocated and fractured pelvis and a wound down the side of her torso.
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Williamson now lives in Manchester to be close to British Cycling's base but has been back in Norfolk recently to spend time with her family – knowing that her coaches believe she is capable of making a full recovery.
'There's no real timescale but it's just a case of they believe in me and I believe in myself and then that's half the battle with getting back from an injury,' the sprint racer said. 'I think they know I'm not one to give up. I think I proved that with my hospital stay. They were joking 'only you would be out so early, they said three months!'.
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'The psychologist came to see me a few times and said 'you don't even need seeing, you've got it all under control'.'
Despite that positive start to her rehabilitation, Williamson knows she still has a great deal of patient waiting and steady recovery ahead of her though.
'The first step is walking fully unassisted and driving and then being completely self-sufficient,' the 2013 World Championship bronze medallist continued.
'I can start weight-bearing at the end of March but then I've got to start learning how to walk again because I can't really walk straight because everything has been loaded on my left.
'I'd like to think by the time everyone is at Rio (in August) I'll be getting on a bike easy, gently, but I can't really put a pinpoint on anything. It's annoying but I've just got to take it a step at a time.'
Of course all injuries come at a bad time for athletes but Williamson's crash came at a particularly unfortunate time, as her form was easing into top gear at the beginning of an Olympic year.
That is due to the nasty crash in the sprint final in Rotterdam, against Dutch rival Elis Ligtlee, with the high-speed tangle leading to the velodrome being closed and racing halted.
'I can't remember anything,' the determined cycling star continued, managing to muster a smile when reflecting on the incident.
'I'd raced Laurine Van Riessen in the semis and I'd just beaten her and I was into the final against Elis Ligtlee and I remember standing on the fence and watching the other two finish and that was it. Next thing I know I was in hospital and Ellie Richardson, who was guesting for GB, she was out there with me, was in my face saying 'you've had a crash'.
'I just remember it being so blurry and I was like 'did I win?' and she was just laughing at me. Then I asked her to take a picture of me, when I had a big cut across my face. But other than that I can't remember anything.
'I've only ever crashed in a race once, which was last October at the senior Europeans in Switzerland, I crashed in the keirin when I caught wheels but I just had whiplash.
'So this was only my second ever crash. I'm hoping that's me done and I've had all my crashes now!'
Williamson had won silver in the team sprint and bronze in the individual sprint at the UEC U23 and Junior European Track Championships in Athens last summer – contributing towards her high hopes for a successful 2016.
'That was really good, again I had a bit of an injury blow before that, I tore the tendon brevis in my ankle and foot area,' Williamson said. 'That happened about three weeks before the Euros in Athens but somehow I got back and actually had really good form.
'Whether the rest actually did me well, I'm not sure, but I actually rode with my foot taped up and I was really happy with that. That was a good start to the season really, or it would have been a good start anyway.'
The honorary member of Velo Club Norwich was looking likely to be selected for the Track World Championships, which started in London earlier this week, but is instead having to watch the action from afar.
'I'm confident I would have been selected,' Williamson said, also revealing she has lost 4kgs in weight since the crash.
'Things were going so well, better then they ever had been, and the coaches were starting to notice that I was coming through so that was really why it was quite a blow initially.
'Just because I thought I was nearly there, things were really starting to come together. I hadn't ridden at the last two World Cups, so I'd got a really strong block of training in, tried some new stuff and new strength techniques.'
Following the crash Williamson received a flood of well wishes on social media, as well as visits and gifts in hospital, including from the cycling community in the Netherlands. Now that she is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, she admits that support has played a huge role in maintaining her mental strength.
'The first week I was pretty out of it for the first few days but as I started to come round I looked at my phone and social media and the support was really good, so that was nice to read,' Williamson added.
'It was fentanyl that I was on, which is 50 times stronger than morphine, it's actually not allowed in the UK! So that's why when I came back to the UK I was in quite a bit of pain because I had got used to this strong drug and suddenly morphine didn't feel quite so strong – so all the support was really nice.'
Willamson has been keeping a diary during her recuperation, which details her recollections of the crash and her recovery process, as well as giving her a therapeutic outlet during the difficult time. You can follow the blog at Vicky-Williamson.blogspot.co.uk.