Airdrie's Brianne Tutt earns Olympic ticket after devastating injury
Long track speed skater was named to Sochi team today
After a routine practice went wrong, Brianne Tutt's Olympic dream — like many of her bones — seemed to be shattered.
But today the 21-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., was named to Canada's Olympic long track speed skating team. The team was announced this morning in Calgary.
Just over a year ago, Tutt was skating at Calgary's Olympic Oval when she and another skater collided.
Tutt smacked her left shoulder and head into the ice, breaking her collarbone and a few ribs, cracking vertebra and fracturing her skull.
She was then diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, a paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face.
Now Tutt has almost fully recovered, except for permanent hearing loss in one ear and nagging neck pain while skating.
"It's hard, when you're in that crouched position, for me to hold my head up without everything seizing."
One of the most difficult things to overcome on her return to skating was just to feel comfortable on the ice again, she says.
"That's such a rare accident, getting hit by someone else, so it took a few times to mentally get over that, that it's not going to happen again," said Tutt.
She wasn't the only one feeling anxious. Her grandmother Barb Barkley says she could barely watch as Tutt competed in her first race back this fall.
"I was just so nervous — so scared she wasn't ready to race and would hurt herself again," says Barkley.
A reason to skate again
Despite the injuries, Tutt says she looks back at the experience as a blessing in disguise. Before the mishap, she considered quitting the sport as she dealt with an ongoing injury and a declining interest in skating.
After the crash she again considered quitting, but decided to give it one more try.
"Coming back from something like that and making the Olympic team, it's kind of a big deal, really, to anyone who has been involved in sport or had a crash too. Hopefully that inspires them to just keep trying to work your way up from injury," says Tutt.
Long track speed skating coach Todd McClements said it was a terrible day when she crashed.
"It was really traumatic," he said. "We were just worried about long-term quality of life. Would she be able to have a full recovery, let alone be able to skate again at a high level."
He said it was fantastic to see Tutt put on her Olympic jacket today and be able to represent Canada.
"I'm having fun again — you should always have fun doing what you're doing," said Tutt.
Tutt is expected to skate the 1,500 metre race in Sochi.