KUSA - Four years ago, he was known as the main rival of Shaun White in the half-pipe.
Kevin Pearce had realistic goals of taking the gold medal in Vancouver. Then, two months before the Olympics, he suffered a severe brain injury after a horrific crash while training.
"I wasn't really able to even remember what I was thinking until about a month-and-a-half later," Pearce said.
He is fully functional now. But, at the time doctors were not even sure if he would survive or if he could live a normal life.
"I forgot how to walk, like I forgot how to swallow," Pearce said. "I didn't know how to do those things."
Pearce spent nearly four months at Craig Hospital in Englewood to re-learn how to live.
"They got me on the treadmill and put it in .01 speed. If you go on a treadmill and you put it on .01 speed, you will see where I was," Pearce said.
He worked hard to regain his functions. He worked hard for his brain to recover. But, his life as a world-class snowboarder was obviously over.
"I was faced with this challenge of finding out what my new life was going to be," Pearce said.
Two years after the crash, which is featured in an HBO documentary called "The Crash Reel," Pearce did get back on a snowboard for the first time.
"It's interesting, because there were little bit of nerves where I was kind of like, 'I might not remember how to do this,'" Pearce said. "But, when I got back on the board it just came right back and it was no problems. So, that was cool that I didn't forget it."
He now enjoys just snowboarding recreationally.
"Not to have to worry about dealing with doctors or therapists or anything else, but just having that freedom of being able to be up there and snowboard," Pearce said.
He does take measures to be careful.
"Take your time and know you're brain takes time. It's been just over three-and-a-half years and my brain is still healing," Pearce said.
Pearce is now focused on his foundation called "Love Your Brain" which is aimed at helping other deal with brain injuries and disabilities like Down syndrome.
"The ability to help and you know the opportunity to be able to help other people is something that I really kind of latched onto and found to be very impactful and powerful for me," Pearce said.
Four years later, Pearce will finally get his chance to the Olympics.
"I was trying to go to Vancouver and that one didn't happen and now it's time for Sochi," Pearce said. "It's crazy and it's going to be in a new way. I'm not going to be in the half-pipe."
Pearce will go mainly as a spectator. He will be a part of the opening ceremonies by carrying the Olympic torch for part of the final leg. Pearce will be there as a symbol of survival with a message that his helmet did save his life.
"Just to be so happy that I still have a brain," Pearce said. "I still have a working brain."
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