The past two and a half years have been about so much more than skating counter-clockwise circles faster and faster. It has been about learning a lot about myself, pushing new limits and meeting absolutely amazing people along the way. One of those people that I have begun to admire over the past couple years is Brianne Tutt.
Growing up playing football I have a great appreciation for the unsung heroes of sport. Especially playing a position like Quarterback you are very thankful to have people like Peter Dyakowski blocking for you on the offensive line. While they may not get much of the headlines, they are the ones that keep you in the game.
With the launch of the new ‘Mass Start’ speed skating race on the ISU Essent World Cup I saw Brianne playing a role that reminded me of those gridiron grinders. The blue collar workers who work exceptionally hard but don’t necessarily get the spotlight. Bri’s job in the Mass Start is to protect and draft for Ivanie Blondin. She shields Ivanie from opponents and creates a draft allowing her to conserve energy.
“Bri is a tank out there. She even would relay push me sometimes to give me easier speed for prime laps”, Ivanie says of Brianne.
This teamwork led to Ivanie stepping onto the podium in Kolomna, Russia for a silver medal in the Mass Start event!
Bri’s rise up the ranks from Junior World Championship team to National development team to World Cup team hit a bit of a setback a couple weekends ago.
Bri had just got back from the World Cup circuit and was warming up before a time trial race on Saturday, December 15th. At the time I was jogging around the Oval before getting on the ice. I heard a big thump and saw everyone on the ice turn towards the backstretch.
There was Bri, lying on the ice with blood streaming out of her nose and ears and another skater, lying unconscious on the ice a few feet away.
Moments earlier, Bri was about to do a start when another skater was coming out of the corner on an accel. The two collided, one going probably 40 kmh, the other, Bri, standing still.
The accident sent both to the hospital and gave Bri a laundry list of ailments: a fractured skull, broken collar bone, broken ribs, two fractured vertebrae in her neck, deaf in her left ear and a diagnosis of Bells Palsy.
But you would not know it from talking to Bri. She has an absolutely incredible attitude and in fact credits the accident for reigniting her passion for skating.
“I have not felt this way about skating in a long time, and I thought I had lost the passion, that I will never remember what it feels like to enjoy this sport ever again. This crash couldn’t have happened at a better time in my life, my passion is back, all I want to do is skate and train.” – Brianne Tutt
Prior to the incident she found herself lacking motivation and even mentioned a bout of depression. Now all she wants to do it get back to training!
Thanks everyone for the positive vibes! Doing better today, eating Popsicles cause no one can say no to me now ;)
— Brianne Tutt (@BriTutt92) December 16, 2012
You hear stories of elite athletes battling back from massive setbacks and wonder how it was possible. Having a front row seat to Bri’s accident and watching her response I can see how these athletes return to form. If Bri was ‘coasting’ as she cracked the National team and had great results on the World Cup I fear for her competitors next season when she comes back chomping at the bit!
Now that Bri is out of the hospital she is recovering and focused on next season, the Olympic year. In the accident, she destroyed her blades and will have a number of rehab expenses coming up on her road to recovery. There is a FundRazr campaign set up to help her cover some of these expenses. Check it out here:
Wishing you all the best in your recovery Bri and thank you for sharing your story and reminding all of us how fortunate we are to be able to skate in circles everyday!
To read Bri’s account first hand I encourage you to check out her blog post complete with some photos from her hospital room antics.