Olympic windsurfer recovering

After hideous accident while training in Athens

Wednesday November 27th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States
Three months after sustaining a closed head injury with skull and vertebrae fracture, US Sailing Team member Kimberly Birkenfeld has made notable progress in healing. She spent 62 days in four different hospitals on two continents after the August 8 accident that occurred while she was training for the Athens 2002 Regatta.

Birkenfeld, the number one ranked Women’s Windsurfer on the 2002 US Sailing Team, is continuing her out-patient therapy from her family’s residence in Portland, Oregon.

“I am very proud of my family for what they were able to accomplish and endure,” Birkenfeld said recently. “I just hope that none of the wonderful people I have met in life and sailing, or their loved ones, get hurt and need to go through what I went through. Thank you to everyone who helped out while I was hospitalized in Athens. All my sailing equipment and personal belongings made it back to my home in Miami. The only thing that came up missing was my sailing booties!”

Birkenfeld’s progress to date is attributed to the strength of her athletic body at the time of the accident. That said, she has difficulties walking, mobility in her left arm is restricted, and she suffers symptoms of numbness and spasticity that mean she cannot work, drive, swim or sail. Noting that she was a business consultant with an M.B.A. from Harvard, and an athlete accustomed to an above-normal level of physical functioning, her physician has asked her physical therapist to be extra-aggressive in working toward Birkenfeld’s goal of a return to her previous activities.

“This has been quite an experience – and disappointingly detrimental to my Olympic campaign. I am working very hard in recovery and really look forward to the day when I can sail, compete, and travel the world meeting people again.”

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