It's his first time back to a snowboarding event after a severe traumatic brain injury and Kevin Pearce is as inspiring as ever. He's been through so much since crashing while training for the Olympics, but he sat down with Alli to reflect on his progress over the last year. He was well-spoken and beyond positive given what he's been through.
Kevin Pearce – Winter Dew Tour 2008/09, Breckenridge
Last night you were out with the Frends crew at an event and having fun, but is there a hole there at all to not be able to go out and ride with them and have that snowboarding connection?
The whole Frends crew has come together and supported me through this. I feel almost the same with them and they just keep it going as it was. Obviously I can't snowboard, and I don't have that connection anymore, but we're still all so close, and that hasn't changed at all. It's pretty exciting to know that even though I can't snowboard, they still treat me the same and act the same way with me. It's pretty much exactly the same except I don't get to go up on the mountain.
What did you think of the whole "I Ride for Kevin" movement that came out after you were injured to support you?
That was crazy to see. I was at my rehab hospital here in Denver and this person came up to me and said, 'We just saw an I Ride For Kevin sticker on this car. Do you know what that means?' It's crazy how big that has become. Somebody at Burton started that idea, and it's just crazy how it just took off in such an enormous way. And it's just so cool for me to see how many kids, snowboarders and people outside of snowboarding really do support me. It's pretty special.
Both you and Danny Davis were injured last season, and now you're here together both not being able to snowboard. How are you guys both dealing with it?
I think we both dealt with it in a great way. We both realized how lucky we are that neither of us are paralyzed, and we're both pretty much totally normal. Certainly not normal, but if you look at us we're normal. We just totally understand how lucky we are to be in this position. That's the only thing we think about. We don't think, 'Oh, I can't believe I can't be in this contest.' Or things like that. We just look at all the positives.
How do you identify yourself now after being a snowboarder and getting injured, when it's a sport that defines your life so much?
I still do feel like a snowboarder. I'm really trying to figure that out right now. Obviously I'm not going to be competing, so I need to find a new path to go on and what's next for me. I'm really excited that I can be involved in snowboarding in some way, so that's awesome. I haven't really figured out what I want to do with it and where I want to go. It's exciting that I'm going to still be able to do all these things; I just need to figure them out.
You're still with Burton and all your sponsors have stood by you through all this. How does that make you feel?
It's just been so crazy to me that all these companies have kept supporting me in such a huge way, and they haven't backed out at all – any of them. They've all been there, kind of like everybody else, with the amount of support I've gotten. All my sponsors have given me that same support. It's just so special, and I think it says a lot about Burton and everybody that's stood behind me and been so helpful.
I know you can't ride pipe, but will you be able to get back on your board and cruise in the future?
Yeah, totally. I'm going to be able to cruise, the doctors said, in three months. But they said really in six months. So I think in about six months I'll get to start riding around. It's just so exciting that they were able to say that to me that my brain is at that point that I will get to ride. Obviously six months feels like six years to me because the part of the brain I messed up makes time go really slow. I've been in Breck for like three days but it feels like three years (laughing). Six months is not a long time, so I'm so excited to get back. I'm just trying not to think about it.
Kevin is in Breckenridge for the Nike 6.0 Open which runs through Sunday. Check out his full interview Saturday, December 18 @ 2:30 pm/est on NBC during the snowboard superpipe finals.