Just when Mannie Heymans (Garmin-adidas) thought that he had, hopefully, seen the last of the insides of doctors’ consulting rooms for a while, he finds himself back in the too familiar chair in front of the doctor’s desk, waiting for more bad news.
In his own words ‘Mr African’, as Heymans is known in the mountain biking world, ‘has become Mr Fragile’.
And it happened in just a matter of seconds.
Heymans and his team-mate, Marc Bassingthwaighte, went for a training ride on their road bikes in Windhoek.
“It is ironic that, while we were cycling, I was telling Marc how privileged we were to train in Namibia on excellent roads and without fear of being hit by a careless motorist. Perhaps I was too carried away with Namibia’s good cycling conditions and forgot to watch the road.
“You can guess what happened next. I did not notice the two potholes in the road and, unknowingly, I rode right into them. My hands were shaken loose from the bicycle’s handlebars by the impact and I crashed down, hitting the tar. I landed with my full weight on my right shoulder.
“My first reaction when I recovered from the fall, was to feel if there were any bones sticking out somewhere from my body. I was immensely relieved not to feel any. Apart from a big gash on my thigh and some bruises, it seemed as if I would be OK.
“My road bike was less fortunate. Apart from puncturing both wheels, my saddle, pedals and gear-system were all damaged.
“To worsen matters, I had only one spare tube with me, so I had to fix the other puncture ‘á la African style’. In short this means that I tied a knot in that tyre to bypass the leak. It worked quite well, because I managed to cycle back home.
“My real problem started about two hours later when, suddenly, there was no feeling in my shoulder. It was so bad that I could not even lift my arm. I immediately made an appointment to see my physiotherapist. She has a good understanding of how my body works, because she has spent hours and hours trying to mend it in the past.
“She was not happy with what she felt and told me to see my orthopedist who also knows my body extremely well because of my constant crashes.
“I first went for X-rays which did not reveal anything. I then went for sonar which proved that something was indeed wrong. My next step was to go for a CT scan which confirmed my worst fear, namely that there was damage to my shoulder bone. I had a small fracture. Just to double check, I also went for a MRI scan.
“All of this means that I will have to make another appointment with my doctor to ascertain whether the fracture will heal on its own if I take it easy for a few weeks, or, if not, whether an operation will be necessary. In the case of an operation, I will again be out of action for four to five months.
“I don’t think anybody will be able to understand my frustration at the moment. I am truly ‘gatvol’ with my apparent inability to keep my body intact.
“The timing of my latest crash was extremely bad. I was just beginning to get my racing legs back. With a little bit of luck I might even have won one or two races, but now it is back to square one for me.
“As a professional sportsman, I simply cannot afford to keep on losing so much time, because it inevitably leads to a loss of income.”
“If somebody could just tell me how many times more I would have to start from scratch and struggle to be fighting fit again, I would truly appreciate it.”
Read out interview with Mannie Heymans here