Christina Mackenzie’s remarkable road to recovery

In the early days of recuperation a return to competition seemed unlikely.In the early days of recuperation a return to competition seemed unlikely.
In the early days of recuperation a return to competition seemed unlikely.
​As her shattered bones healed and her body recovered, Christina Mackenzie’s spirit battled bravely against the creeping shadow of depression. Her family and friends within the world of cycling rallied around her, providing the support and encouragement she needed to take those first tentative steps towards recovery. Each day was a struggle, but she was determined not to let the accident define her life.

​In a mere nine months, Christina achieved the seemingly impossible. With unwavering dedication and a steely resolve, she not only regained her physical strength but also rebuilt her shattered confidence. Her return to competitive cycling was nothing short of awe-inspiring. She climbed back into the saddle at the Island Games, a testament to her iron will, and left spectators stunned at her recovery to elite level competition in such a short space of time.

It is no exaggeration to say that just by being back on her bike and on the starting grid in Guernsey, Christina Mackenzie had already won something far more precious than any medal or podium.

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Regardless of the accolades, praise and prizes she has hoovered up like a sporting Dyson on sawdust over the past decade, the journey in the most recent nine months has been nothing short of remarkable, jaw dropping and inspiring.

Back on the bike and competing in GuernseyBack on the bike and competing in Guernsey
Back on the bike and competing in Guernsey

In the blink of an eye, life can take a dramatic turn, leaving shattered dreams and broken spirits in its wake. For the remarkable Hebridean Ironwoman, a hit-and-run accident seemed to spell the end of her passion for cycling. But against all odds, she not only fought her way back to the saddle but also soared to new heights, showcasing the true power of human resilience.

It was a sunny afternoon when Christina Mackenzie’s world was shattered when she was mowed down while on a training ride in a shocking hit and run accident near Stirling. She was struck by a reckless driver towing a farming trailer who came up behind her bike and attempted to ‘undertake’ her - passing her on the inside, a dangerous practice which is outlawed on British roads.

Witness reports state the car collided with the 45-year-old’s bike before the trailer also struck her sending her crashing into the road and badly injured with the hit-and-run vehicle then callously fleeing the scene, leaving her for dead.

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The accident left her with a pelvis broken in multiple places, a shattered spirit, and the haunting fear that she might never ride again.

Christina MacKenzie leading the Western Isles squad.Christina MacKenzie leading the Western Isles squad.
Christina MacKenzie leading the Western Isles squad.

But, in just nine months she was not only back on her bike, but representing the Western Isles at the prestigious Island Games, competing with the lead pack and in the hunt for silverware going into the final lap. It was nothing short of spectacular and a far cry her lowest ebb when the prospect of never even riding again loomed like an impenetrable cloud over her.

“From being somebody who is so active and always outdoors to not being able to get out of the house at all for five weeks, being in hospital for 10 days and unable to even live in my own flat as I couldn’t use the stairs, there were some very dark days, especially in those first few months after the accident,” Christina admitted to the Gazette.

“There were times I thought I might not be able to compete again. For the first three months I couldn't think about, go near or even see my bike. I was in so much pain I couldn’t ever imagine riding again. My lack of mobility and being unable to walk or even turn without pain and being on so much medication meant I honestly could not envisage ever being pain free again but now I take it for granted again.”

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The road to recovery was anything but easy despite her work ethic and determination. The shattered pelvis required significant rest and gruelling rehabilitation sessions, and an unwavering commitment to regain her strength. Yet, it was not just her body that needed healing. The accident had taken a toll on her mental well-being, plunging her into a battle with depression and self-doubt.

“I think back to when I was in hospital using my zimmer frame and feeling cold and wanting to close the window in my room but deciding to wait until someone else came to the room to ask them to close the window as those few steps seemed like such an effort and so far away from where I was at that point,” she continued. “I have to be grateful where I am now as it could have been a very different story.”

But step by step, minute by minute, and day after day, Christina fought on, refusing to let the accident define her. With the support of loved ones, medical professionals, and her own ferocious will to recover she slowly but surely made progress. The bike, once a source of pain, became a symbol of hope – a reminder that she was not defeated.

“I remember when things started to turn more positive for me,” she went on.

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“It was on Christmas Day which was almost exactly on the 3 month mark following the accident when I decided to go on my static turbo bike. It was a push but I forced myself to try.

“There were many times when I was on the turbo that I felt sick and all I wanted to do was climb right back off because as well as the pain and I had a lack of fitness, I had put on weight and I was a different person so it felt so alien. There were definitely more than a few testing times.”

But as she returned to fitness Christina set a target to be back on her bike and competing for the Western Isles at the Island Games. It seemed an unlikely and unattainable goal but Christina is no ordinary sportsperson.

With a mix of nerves and excitement, she lined up against the best in the Island Games, her heart pounding in rhythm with the pedals beneath her feet. As the race unfolded, it became evident that Christina’s journey was far from ordinary. She wasn't just racing against opponents; she was racing against the shadows of her past, against doubt and fear.

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“These Island Games were the goal and to have them as a target on the horizon gave me something to aim for and to focus on trying to get fit and represent the Western Isles again,” said Christina.

She was speaking in Guernsey after a pair of races in which she defied expectations, both her own and of others, against what was some of the world’s best road cyclists.

“I was delighted to just get on the start line but to be there in the road race with all these girls and keeping up and competing in the main bunch made me so chuffed,” beamed Christina after the final race.

To cap it all, the Stornoway champion cyclist was on target and in the hunt for a medal until the entire lead pack came a cropper.

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“My body is in bits now,” she laughed loudly, “my ribs are still pretty sore and bothering me after the crash on Friday.

“I was on the third wheel going into the last lap when the lead girl from Guernsey went round the corner on the slippery surface and hit the deck.

"Then the Gibraltar girl in second fell on top of her then there was nowhere else for me to go but down. Then the riders behind us got past us.

“I checked that the bike was OK and everyone on the ground was moving and they were not badly injured and then I got back on my bike and did the last lap and tried to make up the time and ground we had lost.”

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While out of medal contention as a result, her triumphant smile underlined the remarkable story of her journey — one of setbacks and recoveries and of shattered dreams, but one that was re-energised by unstoppable determination. She had not only returned to competitive cycling, but to heights she had never dared to believe she would reach again.

She continued: “I think it was great to be able to hold my own and be able to hang at that level again which made me feel so delighted.”

So what did the week in the saddle, in the white hot heat of the NatWest Island Games, mean for the future?

“Confidence,” she grinned, “for the next race or the next Island Games?

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Next on the sporting horizon for her was the recent UCI World Cycling Championships held in Scotland which she qualified for with a terrific display in the the Tour of Cambridgeshire.

“In the championship itself, I had a puncture after 27 minutes into the race and even after fixing it the tyre kept deflating and for four hours I had to hand pump it,” she laughed.

“It was flipping awful and not the experience I would have hoped but I did finish the race though and that's cycling for you.

“At least I got to finish it, my body held out and coped and after all I’ve been through in the last year, a puncture in Perth is something I’ll get over. There is nothing wrong with me or anyone else around me so these things don’t phase me anymore.”

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Though the road from her hospital bed to competing again at the top level has been tough, Christina has dug deep, ready to face the challenge head-on and she has completed a journey of recovery that would test the limits of her physical and mental endurance.

As Mackenzie continues to pedal forward, conquering new races and challenges, she stands as a living reminder of the power of the human spirit – a true cycling hero who reminds us that sometimes, the greatest victories are born from the most challenging journeys.

Through the darkest of times, she found her way back to the sporting light, not only reclaiming her love for cycling but inspiring all of us along the way. Her journey teaches us that no setback is insurmountable, and every obstacle can be an opportunity for a comeback.

Christina’s wheels keep turning, not just on the road but also at the forefront of the minds of those who share her remarkable tale of triumph.

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“I’m always still nervous now and I'm not the same rider I was before the accident,” admitted Christina, “and I have nerves when I go out, I feel it when I put my helmet and shoes on.I was a bit anxious but I have to believe it won't happen again and I’m so positive about the future.”

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