Tales from Rio: The incredible comeback from cancer, facial reconstructive surgery and a superbug

  • Just 14 months ago Australia’s Shane Rose was in hospital. It was bad. He’d parted company from a young horse who’d given him a good kicking as he fell.

    Today he rode at the Olympics, partnering the beautiful grey gelding CP Qualified to a 42.5 score and lie in 13th place overnight. The judges didn’t really agree about the performance, with one awarding 67% and another 74%. But Shane is lucky to be here at all.

    “Last year I was riding a young horse at home — a former racehorse who’d been treated badly — and he felt like he was going to throw himself on the floor, so I sort of jumped off and he turned and kicked me.

    “It broke five ribs, split my liver and punctured a lung. To top it all off I then got and golden staph infection. I was knocked around a fair bit.”

    That’s an understatment. In his career he has broken so many bones he can’t even remember the exact number. He’s also recovered from thyroid cancer (including an operation and radiation treatment) and a kick to the jaw while long-reining that was so violent that he was in an induced coma for a week and surgeons had to reconstruct his face with four operations and eight metal plates.

    His face was so badly bashed up that his wife Niki had to bring in photograps to show the surgeons what they were aiming for.

    <em>Continued below…</em>

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    “Since I’ve been healthy, things have been going great,” says Shane, whose wife gave birth to twins just three months ago.

    Despite all the physical hardship, Shane has managed to find time to be an Olympic medallist, picking up team silver in Beijing in 2008. And, right now, the Australians are sitting in bronze medal position after dressage in Rio.

    Looking ahead

    What does Shane think of the cross-country course, looming on the horizon for tomrrow?

    “There isn’t one specific fence to catch you out,” he says, “it’s all of them. But my horse is brave, accurate and adjustable.”

    We think Shane is deserving of the brave accolade too.

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