Artistic gymnast Kieran Behan prepares to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games following a run of seemingly never-ending setbacks that would have crushed the careers of many athletes.
But the 27-year-old is back, having travelled down a long road to recovery since his appearance at London 2012 when he finished 53rd in the floor exercise.
“Never, never, ever, ever lose hope,” Behan said. “Everyone has their struggles – whether it’s economical, whether it’s physical, whether it’s absolutely anything.”
In 2013, Behan underwent a fifth operation on his knee and had to balance two jobs with training.
“Behind closed doors, it was very, very bad. Eventually I just reverted back to (the thought that) ‘I’ve been through a hell of a lot worse’, in terms of being told you’d never walk again or you’re not going to get out of a wheelchair,” he said.
“That sort of sparked the fire back in me. You know I’ve been through something that bad. I’m made of some strong stuff.”
When he was 11 years old, Behan suffered severe nerve damage following surgery to remove a tumour in his left leg – and that was when a doctor told him he would be unable to walk again. He could not for almost a year.
At 14, he hit his head on the high bar during a training session, resulting in major damage to his nervous system. He was left wheelchair-bound for almost three years.
Behan relied on the support of his family and friends, as well as his own spirit, to overcome the many challenges he faced on his personal road to the Rio Games.
“Everybody has that fire in them,” he said. “I think you have to realise what it takes to light it for yourself and to never lose hope.”