herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Behan beats all the odds to seal dream spot at Olympics

GYMNASTICS: KIERAN BEHAN has become only the second Irish gymnast in history to qualify for an Olympic Games after he was twice told he might never walk again.

The 22-year-old, who competed at the London Prepares test event, found out he had secured 34th place as an individual and booked his place at London 2012.

It caps an impressive year for the self-funded Surrey-based gymnast, who was crowned 2011 World Cup floor champion, after he defied all the odds to continue his career. Behan has battled back from several serious setbacks, among the worst when a non-cancerous tumour was discovered on his leg when he was 10 years old, with complications arising in the operation to remove it leaving him in a wheelchair.

Remarkably, Behan recovered, and 15 months later he was back in the gym, only for a freak training accident to leave him with brain damage. Behan, then aged 12, slipped while working on the high bar causing the back of his head to land on the apparatus, which damaged his inner ear and caused him to black out with any sudden movement.

It meant he had to relearn how to do simple things such as sitting and how to move his head and left him unable to train for three years. After a great deal of rehab, Behan returned to the gym and gained several youth accolades, but a double injury blow ruled him out until the end of 2010 after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligaments in both of his knees in separate incidents.

However, World Cup series success last year and a solid performance at the World Championships in Tokyo earned him the chance to qualify at the test event at the North Greenwich arena, which he duly took.

Behan revealed he was in a state of shock when he discovered he was only the second gymnast to represent Ireland at the Olympics after Barry McDonald (1996).

"I was just jumping around the room crying my eyes out. I was just so chuffed. It really is a dream come true."

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