Months after competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Canada's track cyclist Kate O’Brien met with an accident that changed her life completely. However, the life-altering accident did not stop her from dreaming and working towards securing a medal at the Games. Fast-forward to 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, the 33-year-old clinched a silver in the C4-5 500-metre time trial.
Kate met with an accident during a cycling demonstration at an outdoor track in 2017, which resulted in her suffering from a punctured lung, broken ribs, and a broken clavicle. Doctors told her that she might never walk or bike again. To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2019. She was, however, determined to continue the sport. She worked with physiotherapists to get her motion back.
In an interview with CBC in 2020, she said her physiotherapists "set her bike up on rollers, pushed it toward a wall and formed a human semi-circle in case she toppled."
Kate participated in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics and finished her race in 35.439 seconds, just behind Kadeena Cox of Team Great Britain.
"Looking back when I see myself four years ago, did I ever think that I would be competing at a Games, let alone standing on a podium? Absolutely not," O’Brien said.
“Following 2016, I was in a bit of a post-Olympic slump, as you get into, and wasn’t super sure where I was going. And I thought that Tokyo, which was in the plan, that was what I was aiming for. I didn’t ever think that it would be in the Paralympics,” she added.
Kate admitted that she didn’t know much about Paralympics in general — other than that Canada was all "one team."
"But I didn’t realize what a division there is between able-bodied and para. Not in a mean way or bad way. It’s just there is like a very distinct division between the two," she said, adding, "That’s a huge thing I would love to get across is Para athletes are also just athletes. We’re all kind of the same."