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Janine Shepherd, an award-winning Australian cross country skier, shares the story of her tragic accident that ended her athletic and Olympic journey in her coping with tragedies speech.
“Why me?” She questioned. After being hit by a speeding utility truck, Shepherd’s body was completely broken with life-threatening injuries like severe blood loss and multiple spinal fractures. Having never imagined herself as anything other than an athlete who’s body was once a machine, the broken Australian was reluctant to return to her shattered body. Why would anyone, she thought, want to go back to a body that was so broken?
One afternoon, while sitting her wheelchair recovering from what the doctors called permanent injuries, Shepherd heard the muffled sound of an airplane soaring across the sky and there, her depression lifted and her vision clarified. “Why not me?” She thought. “Rock bottom is the perfect place to start.” And with that newfound sense of freedom discovered through uncertainty, she embarked on what she called the most creative project one could ever do: rebuilding a life. No longer tied to a path of professional athlete, Shepherd let go of her then-current situation and embraced a new path in life. She obtained her pilot’s license a year within the accident and currently holds a flying instructor’s license.