Tory Nyhaug paused and thought for a moment.
Asking a world class BMX rider like Nyhaug how many times he has been injured takes a while. He finally gave up and said: “More than once.”
How many bones has he broken? “Something like 11 bones.”
The broken bones were nothing compared to the spill Nyhaug took in May at a super cross event in Papendal, Holland. Nyhaug was in fourth place trying to catch the leaders when he over shot a jump, hit the next one and went flying off his bike. When he hit the ground the impact ruptured his spleen. It was the second time he had injured his spleen while competing in two years and treatment was out of the question. So, Nyhaug, who lives in Coquitlam, B.C., returned to a hospital in Vancouver where doctors took it out.
Remarkably he left the hospital within a few days and was back training in a couple of weeks. Now he’s in London about take part in his first Olympic Games as Canada’s only entry in the BMX competition which starts Aug. 8.
“I was in so much pain right after surgery I thought, wow, this is going to last a long time,” he recalled Sunday. “But I improved a lot every day and it was looking very positive.”
The spleen helps the body create blood cells and fight infection. And while it is possible to live without it, Nyhaug said he will need vaccination shots every few years “and be careful about getting sick.”
Although he is ranked 5th in the world, Nyhaug knows he is something of an unknown in the event.
“I’ve gone under the radar I think because a lot of people didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “A lot [of people] didn’t know if I was even going to be able to race.”
He added: “I feel as prepared as I can be within the timeframe that we’ve been given.”
BMX is certain to be a popular sport at the Games. It’s a mix of snowboard cross and roller derby, where eight riders zip down a 400-metre course at 60 kilometres an hours and fly over jumps as they pedal to the finish line. Races last barely 40 seconds.
The competition in London begins with all 32 riders going down the course once on their own in a time trial. That establishes seedings for the elimination rounds, where riders compete against each other and earn points based on their placing. The start is critical, as is finding clean line for corners and not crashing out on the jumps.
Nyhaug, 20, has been competing in BMX almost from the time he could ride a bike. “I could ride a two wheeler bike when I was two and a half and my uncle knew about a local track when I was 4-years old. I went and tried it and have been in love with it since.”
It’s a fast-paced high risk sport, something that appeals to Nyhaug who also played hockey until recently.
So how does he feel physically coming into London given his history of injuries? “I’m pain free, completely.”