Prior to his accident, the world believed that Vermont’s Kevin Pearce would be an Olympic star.
Within a matter of hours, on New Year’s Eve 2009, the world believed that Pearce would never ride again.
But they were wrong. Defying the odds with a natural optimism and determination, coupled with a fiercely devoted family and huge support group, Pearce made a miraculous recovery from brain damage—regaining motor skills critical for snowboarding.
Today, he is back on track, cruising down Vermont slopes. Pearce, 24, recently elaborated on his rehabilitation, mental attitude, and his future, explaining how he is reshaping and redefining his life.
Now that he is able to snowboard again, “I am able to get my life back to the way it used to be,” he said, “things feel like they’re getting back to the way I remember.” But getting there has taken a tremendous amount of focus and hard work. Cardio exercises and intense physical therapy to improve his eye and balance coordination were key for Pearce to begin snowboarding again. “My rehab consists of a lot of balance exercises and cardio, and trying to get my body to the way it used to be. The most rewarding part of all the hard work is seeing my balance improve.”
Despite the fact that Pearce will not compete again, he is not holding back from noncompetitive snowboarding and is focusing on different aspects of the sport.
“It’s hard not competing anymore,” he said. “I’m missing that because it was a huge part of my life. I’m still working to find a new way to get that joy and feeling back. For some of the events this year, I have been doing some announcing and live webcasting on the Internet. I’m trying to find different ways to stay involved with snowboarding without competing.”
When asked if his and freestyle skier Sarah Burke’s accidents changed his view of action sports (both were injured at the same park, on the same half pipe; sadly, Burke died in January), Pearce put it this way: “I feel these accidents are what come along with the sports we do, and you need to be prepared for things like this to happen, because it can happen to anybody.”
As for the future, Pearce is confident and optimistic about finding his way. “My life has changed; it’s going in a totally new way. It’s really unknown at this point. It’s still too soon to know what I’m fully going to be able to do.”
Pearce credits his family’s support as part of the reason for his tremendous recovery. (His family owns the Simon Pearce glass and pottery company.) “It’s been a very long and stressful experience for my family to help me recover. They all have come together and done everything they could to help me.”
It has been a trying couple of years for the Pearces, he said, pointing to the incredible loss the family suffered due to flooding during Tropical Storm Irene. “We’ve continued to stay strong and be there for each other.”
While his family has helped, so has being in the Green Mountain State.
“Living in Vermont is nice, it is mellow, so I haven’t had many distractions, and I’ve been able to focus on my recovery,” he said. For now, with an incredibly supportive family and his inseparable group of FRENDS (Pearce’s closest group of friends who supported him while competing and during his recuperation call themselves FRENDS, believing there is no “I” in the word), Pearce is enjoying day-to-day life, hitting the mountain in the morning and hanging out with his friends and family through the afternoon.
When asked about encouraging kids to snowboard, Pearce is quick to reply. “I advise kids to wear a helmet (Pearce believes the helmet saved his life) and also advise kids to snowboard because they love it and not because other people are forcing them to do it. It’s fun and exciting, and it brings me happiness.”
And that encouraging advice is some that Pearce is applying to his own future.