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Coma-inducing fall behind him, Pearce ready to ride

By Eddie Pells
Associated Press / December 9, 2011
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DENVER - Instead of riding for Kevin, snowboarders can ride with Kevin again.

Kevin Pearce’s remarkable recovery will reach a major milestone next week when he gets back on snow for the first time in the two years since his life-threatening accident on the halfpipe.

“I’m kind of trippin’ that we’re finally here,’’ Pearce said yesterday.

Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury in a practice accident Dec. 31, 2009, that left him in a coma. His plight spawned the slogan “I Ride 4 Kevin,’’ and since the accident, those stickers and patches have been plastered across snowboards and jackets on slopes across America.

He’ll return for a few “mellow’’ runs Tuesday in Breckenridge with fans, sponsors, and fellow snowboarders.

“I don’t feel nervous at all,’’ said Pearce, a New Hampshire native who grew up in Vermont. “It’s weird because of how bad of shape I’m in and how hard some things are for me. But snowboarding is so natural to me. I’ve been doing it since I was 5. I know it so well. I’m so aware of myself on a snowboard that I know I’ll be totally fine.’’

On New Year’s Eve in 2009, Pearce was working on the toughest trick in the sport - a Double Cork 1260 - and was expected to challenge Shaun White at the 2010 Olympics. But he slammed his head against the halfpipe in Park City, Utah, and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. After he came out of his coma, doctors told him he’d be lucky to walk, let alone ride a snowboard.

But through a series of small steps, he slowly recovered. A year ago, on a visit to his doctors at Craig Hospital in Denver, he said he felt good enough to ride, but the doctors told him he needed at least another six months.

Six months passed. Now, it’s been a year.

“This whole thing has been about being patient and taking the time to let it happen,’’ Pearce said. “I’ve been taking the right amount of time. Everyone agrees, and now, we’re ready to go.’’

He concedes he’s not all the way back. His memory is shaky. He still falls and spills things. Sometimes it gets frustrating.

But, he says, it’s time to ride again.

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