“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”- Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
Some people just can’t catch a break. You go on with your life and think when things don’t go your way, you must have the worst luck in the world, but there are people out there who have it worse.
Now when you think of Irish gymnastics, the first person who comes to mind is probably Kieran Behan — who, coincidentally, didn’t have the best luck either. However, this post isn’t about Behan’s comeback from multiple serious injuries to make the London Olympics as only the second Irish gymnast ever and the first since Barry McDonald in 1996.
Carson has had a dream since he was seven years old. It wasn’t unlike many kids his age. Carson wanted to go to the Olympics.
That dream seemed almost reality as he was the top contender for an Olympic berth. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Carson suffered a very untimely leg break just a year out from London, which required a bone graft and tendon reconstruction while four screws and a titanium plated were drilled into his tibia. This set Carson back tremendously as he spent four weeks in bed and four months out of the gym. His chances at London were all but over.
So Carson started his first long recovery process, making his way all the way back to full form and qualifying to not only the World Championships later this month in Antwerp, Belgium but next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland as well.
But Carson’s training suffered another setback. This time not in the form of injury but in financial support.
Sport Northern Ireland cut Carson’s funding because he “did not meet the agreed minimal performance standard” to be eligible for funding. But how could he? Carson was still recovering from the bad break suffered in his leg. There was no way he could have met the standards set by SNI such a short time after his injury.
Now Carson was in an even bigger hole than he began.
“I now have no income what so ever and am completely relying on savings to support myself to train, pay rent, pay gym fees, food costs, travel costs etc,” Carson said in a blog post on Machine Fitness. “This on top of everything else is soul destroying and making an already hard lifestyle even harder.”
Reaching out through social media, Carson sought to find funding from a completely different source. His campaign, 1000 Dreams, is designed to raise €1000 each month to cover everything from training costs to food and boarding. And the campaign has been going great with support from all over the world.
But it seems it was too good to be true.
Less than two weeks before Carson was set to leave for the World Championships, he traveled to Lowestoft, England for a pre-Worlds camp with the Great Britain team. Everything was going according to plan and seemed normal until a bad punch on the springboard leading into his vault went terribly wrong.
“I took off on the springboard and that’s when I felt the most excruciating pain in my left tibia,” Carson wrote. “I flew through the air and landed on my back screaming in pain. The ambulance came soon after. After X-rays were taken, I am sorry to say I have shattered my tibia.”
The injury in and of itself is odd, happening on the springboard versus the landing. Doctors even believe that an unknown existing stress fracture may be the cause of all of the damage. This latest turn in an unusually unlucky series of events for Carson couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only will he undoubtedly be out of Worlds but his career could be over.
“I have been told that running may be a problem for me when I recover, and that I should prepare for the worst with regards my career,” he said. “I am totally devastated. I feel like my world has stopped. Everything I dreamed of achieving as a seven-year-old gymnast has gone.”
Carson must now begin his second excruciatingly long recovery in the hopes of making it back in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Before the injury, many people were saying that Carson was in the best shape of his life and had a realistic chance of not only medaling in Glasgow next summer but having success at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Coming back will be difficult — probably the most difficult thing Carson will ever do — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Dimitri Bilozerchev, one of the greatest male gymnasts to ever compete at the elite level, suffered a shattered leg in 1985 and came back just two years later even better than ever to win the World all around title in 1987.
“He is an elite athlete,” Alex McGreevy, Carson’s agent from MG Sports Management, said. “Elite athletes are strong in character when faced with the most difficult scenarios.”
It will be a long road with many questions and doubts along the way, but Carson can come back from this. He’s already done it once before. However, in the end, it’s not back luck that Carson has experienced throughout his life, it’s merely cause and effect. Everything happens for a reason and if nothing else, he will come out even stronger.
Bernard Evslin once wrote, “But bad luck makes good stories.” And boy does Carson have an inspirational story to tell now.