The applause wouldn’t stop inside the Berlin velodrome this weekend. This time, she wasn’t winning a race. Kristina Vogel was coming home.
Vogel, the Olympic track cyclist who was left paralyzed in a training crash this summer, made an emotional return to the boards during the Berlin round of the track cycling World Cup.
The 28-year-old received the “Cyclist of the Year” award from the German cycling federation and was received warmly by the crowd as she made a lap on the velodrome in her wheelchair.
“It was so moving,” Vogel told L’Equipe. “I don’t miss the racing but I do miss the cycling community. This was my cycling family.”
Vogel, an 11-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, crashed during a training session in June. She underwent surgeries, but injuries resulted in her being paralyzed from the chest down.
Vogel first revealed details of her personal tragedy in an interview in Der Spiegel in September. Her visit to the Berlin velodrome was her first return to track cycling since her crash.
“I am not angry or sad,” she told L’Equipe. “I said to myself it was best to accept the facts as fast as possible in order to be able to bounce back.”
“Of course, sometimes I am not happy about what happened. I can be jealous to see people walking around, but I also see people who are totally paralyzed, who can only move their head,” she continued. “I am happy to be alive and I am still the same person I was. You have to keep moving forward.”
Vogel won Olympic gold medals in the team sprint in the 2012 London Games and in the individual sprint in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
She said she’s embraced her post-accident life with gusto, enjoying the small things that she couldn’t when was living the calibrated life as an elite Olympic athlete. She said her life was so consumed with training and racing that she could not even enjoy going to the movies.
Vogel said she’s considering returning to competition as a Paralympian but is in no hurry.
“If I do come back,” she said, “it won’t be to finish second.”