Two-time Olympic cycling champion Kristina Vogel has given her first press conference since a training accident left her paralyzed. She described the process of adjusting to her disability as her toughest-ever battle.
Kristina Vogel appeared upbeat as she rolled into Wednesday's press conference in the Berlin hospital.
She is being treated for injuries suffered in a collision with another rider during training on a track in the eastern city of Cottbus in June. The crash left her paralyzed from the waist down.
The 27-year-old native of Kirgizstan said she was deeply touched by the outpouring of sympathy following the crash, but she also described her first few weeks in hospital as the most difficult of her entire life.
"I had never had to fight such difficult battles," she said. "These are battles with a different sort of motivation… It's more difficult than the battle for an Olympic gold medal."
She also said she suffered a lot of pain in the days and weeks that followed the accident, but that she was now pain free.
Vogel compared herself to "a little baby who has to learn everything," but admitted that, almost three months after the accident, she had come to terms with her fate and now wanted to face the world and spread her positive energy.
Learning to express emotions
"Why should I feel sorry for myself?" she asked. However, she did concede that she struggled emotionally, particularly in the early days after her accident.
"I had to learn to allow the tears to come. I was never somebody who cried a lot," she said. "I hated women's films that end in weddings. I had to learn to express emotions."
She credited her partner and her family with helping her get through the most difficult days and continuing to supporter her through the process of recovery.
Vogel also said felt lucky to be in the situation she is in, because given how serious the crash was, it "could have been much worse for me."
She said she had no recollection of the crash whatsoever, and that she was glad this was the case. However, she did say that it was important to find out what had caused the collision for her peace of mind.
Before losing the use of her legs, Kristina Vogel won 11 world championship titles and two Olympic gold medals
Quickly sensed loss of use of legs
Vogel also said knew just minutes after the crash that she had lost the use of her legs.
"When my shoes were taken off and I only realized it afterwards, that's when I knew that my days as a pedestrian were over," she said. This, she added, made things easier for her when the doctors confirmed the diagnosis, as she had already given up hope of being able to walk again.
Her focus now, she said, was entirely on learning how to do things she took for granted while she still had the use of her legs, and her doctors said that she was making swift progress in learning how to deal with a wheelchair.
One of her doctors told reporters that she has been able to move independently from her bed to her wheelchair and vice versa since a week ago, a development that normally comes much later in a patient's recovery.
"If you believe in it, you can achieve it, she said. "My first goal is to learn to go down flights of stairs in a wheelchair."
'I'd have loved to have won a 12th world championship'
She also hinted at a possible career in disabled sports.
"Ten years after my first, great, world championship, I would have loved to have won a 12th medal," she said… Perhaps I'll win my 12th medal in something else. I'll certainly develop new goals that I can work towards.
Vogel won Olympic gold in the team sprint at the London Velodrome in 2012 and individual sprint gold in Rio de Janeiro four years later. She is also an 11-time world champion.