"The more people say that I've inspired them, the more it inspires me to continue what I'm doing and to make people proud.
Kieran Behan is an Irish artistic gymnast and an Olympian who had to battle back from several setbacks during the course of his gymnastic career. In 1999, when he was ten years old, a tumour was discovered in his leg. The operation to remove it resulted in complications that left him in a wheelchair. Remarkably, he managed to recover and get back to training after only 15 months. Soon after, he hit his head on the high bar and suffered brain damage that confined him to a wheelchair again. He had to relearn basic skills such as sitting and moving his head, and was told he might never walk again. However, after three years of intense rehabilitation and support from his family and friends, Kieran astonished his doctors by once more making a full recovery and returning to training. He even managed to win several accolades in the junior categories.
Kieran joined Ireland's national team and began to compete at senior international level in 2009. A few weeks before he was due to compete in the European Championships, he suffered another heavy blow when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees, and tore the same ligament in his other knee soon after. He never gave up, however, and in 2011, he won three World Cup medals, made it to the number one spot in the world rankings on his preferred apparatus, the floor, and went on to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He accomplished all this without a sponsor or national funding, acquiring the money needed for his travel and accommodation expenses with the help of his friends and family, who supported him with bake sales and other fundraisers.
Competing in the Olympics, only the second Irish gymnast ever to do so, won Kieran international fame, a sponsor and a grant from the national Sports Council. Despite achieving his successes through his own perseverance and iron will, Kieran never forgets to thank his friends, family and coaches – and his luck.