Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Backpack saves diver's life

Trusty tote cushioned blow when Geyson slammed by cab in China

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Kevin Geyson doesn't remember the accident that nearly took his life during the summer but he'll never forget it.

After being hit by a taxi in Shanghai, China, on July 24 while there for the World Aquatic Championships, the Winnipeg diver has made an amazing recovery that has stunned his therapists and has his coach beaming.

The 27-year-old from coach Dallas Ludwick's Revolution club will compete in the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico -- a move which keeps his dream alive of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic games. He suffered a concussion and a fracture in his left knee, had surgery in China and was in hospital for eight days, with his mom by his side for seven of them.

"They say I have an angel on both shoulders because I probably should be dead right now, but I'm back diving and walking almost as if it hadn't happened, less than three months later," said Geyson, who departs Friday for Guadalajara, where the diving competition will be held Oct. 28-29. "Having a chance to compete in the Pan Am Games is definitely uplifting knowing that the season is starting to come back on track."

He will compete in the 10-metre synchronized platform diving event with partner Eric Sehn, but hasn't determined whether he will be ready for the men's individual event.

Geyson's ordeal in China was extremely traumatic -- his story includes some extraordinary elements of split-second reaction, old-fashioned good fortune and a really good backpack.

He was crossing a Shanghai street to get from one bus to another when a taxi hit him at 50 kilometres per hour.

"From what we've been able to piece together, Kevin must have caught a glimpse of it (the car) out of the corner of his eye because, instead of freezing on the spot like most people would, he jumped (up in the air)," Ludwick said. "He went over the car, instead of under it, which would have had a very different outcome.

"His Speedo backpack, that enormous thing that I think contains every swim suit he's ever owned, cushioned his fall. He impacted the car with the bag and we think that's why he had no internal injuries, which is a miracle."

The backpack has only superficial injuries, a small tear and a couple of scuffs, and Geyson joked that it will remain in action along with him.

Ludwick said Geyson's recovery can be attributed to his determination, in addition to the medical attention and careful training program he has received.

"He would phone me and say 'I can only bend my leg to five degrees using my muscle but if I sit on it and use gravity I can bend it more,'" Ludwick said, noting Geyson has a degree in athletic therapy. "Not too many people would have the patience to sit there (doing exercises) for hours, so determined to lose zero time."

Ludwick said Geyson's training, which went from barely moving his knee on Sept. 1 to doing full jumps a couple of days later, has actually benefited from his slow return to action because it forced him to focus on the technical elements of his dives.

Geyson said he is grateful to Diving Canada for the opportunity to go the Pan Am Games, the first time he has competed in this event in his 15-year career.

Diving Canada told him after his accident that he would represent Canada the Pan Am Games whether he could compete or not.

"I feel like it was easier to push myself to my limits because I've gone through such a traumatic experience," Geyson said. "Everyone tells me it's a miracle that I am going, but I still want to do my best and hopefully compete in both events."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2011 C6

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