Dutch Olympic cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten has posted a health update — including a photo of her smiling — following her scary cyclist event crash Sunday in Rio.
— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) August 9, 2016
According to Daily Mail, which also posted still images of the terrible fall, van Vleuten (despite her remarkable smile) sustained broken bones in her spine and a number of other injuries while descending the Vista Chinesa bike path with about six miles left in the race. At the time, as has been documented by the Inquisitr, she was alone with a solid lead over the next closest cyclist. Her closest competitor, the U.S. cyclist Mara Abbott, had fallen to a distant second place.
Unfortunately, a slightly mistimed turn caused her to skid off the road, flip over, and land in a ditch. Observers estimate she may have been going as fast as 55 miles per hour at the time of the nearly fatal cyclist crash.
I am now in the hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine. Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career.
— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) August 8, 2016
Van Vleuten was subsequently taken to a nearby hospital facility. The only health update that has been provided since that time was by the Dutch Cycling Federation — per CNN — which confirmed that she was “conscious but ok.”
The Dutch Cycling Federation confirms that Annemiek van Vleuten is OK following her nasty crash in the road race. https://t.co/N50YQknmAE
— CNN Sport (@cnnsport) August 7, 2016
Van Vleuten’s close call with death has, however, called into question many of the practices that Rio officials have undertaken prior to approving its Olympic courses.
“I’m really just waiting for news on van Vleuten,” said Chris Boardman, a 1992 U.K. gold medalist who does commentating for BBC. Boardman is among those who believe Rio officials should be held accountable for the quality of the cyclist course.
“It’s very hard to concentrate when you see a crash like that,” the former cyclist continued. “‘I’m actually quite angry because I looked at the road furniture and thought nobody can crash here and get up. This was way past technical, this was dangerous.”
This belief was also made even more apparent in light of the series of mens’ cyclist crashes on the same course the day before, per the Financial Times. In particular, former Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (double collarbone fracture) and Richie Porte (broken shoulder blade) were known to be seriously injured on the same course.
Van Vleuten’s teammate Anna van der Breggen (gold medal) would end up winning the Rio women’s cyclist race, just ahead of Sweden’s Emma Johansson (silver medal) and Italy’s Elisa Borghini (bronze medal).
“We just [hoped] she’s ok,” van der Breggen said to Daily Mail of her experience seeing van Vleuten lying seemingly unconscious on the road,
U.K. cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, meanwhile, said that having to pass a motionless van Vleuten on the road without stopping to help her was a “very difficult thing.”
But perhaps legendary British Olympics cyclist Victoria Pendleton said it best when she noted that “[Rio’s Vista Chinesa] is an absolutely incredibly dangerous course.
Fortunately for van Vleuten, this brush with a potentially catastrophic death has not taken away her ability — or seeming desire — to continue her Olympic cyclist dreams.
Next time — and van Vleuten is fully aware that she is lucky that there can be one — she hopes to keep both tires to the road.
[Photo by Eric Gaillard-Pool / Getty Images]