Track & Field

Grunberg fights on after Pole Vault accident leaves her paralysed

Just three weeks ago, Kira Grunberg was one of Europe’s most promising pole vaulters, the Austrian record holder, and it was business as usual for the 21-year-old as she went training, finalising her preparations for the upcoming World Championships in Beijing.  

Grunberg was a 4.45m at her best but a training accident in recent weeks left her paralysed. Image: Tom Sports Consulting

Grunberg was a 4.45m at her best but a training accident in recent weeks left her paralysed. Image: Tom Sports Consulting

Just moments later, her career was finished, her life irrevocably changed.  

After a vault went wrong, Grunberg landed on her head beside the crash mats, fracturing her cervical vertebrae, which left her paralysed. Her parents were at the track watching at the time of her accident, and after several hours of surgery at the Innsbruck’s University Clinic, were given the devastating news that their daughter was quadriplegic.  

The statement from the clinic was brief, and for all those close to Grunberg, utterly heartbreaking.  

“After we had diagnosed paraplegia before the operation, the patient received emergency surgery in order to stabilise her spine and avoid further damage,” it read. “At the moment, the continuation of her sporting career is not an option.”  

Grunberg thanked the public for their support via her Facebook page in recent days. “Your support provides me with the strength to fight every day,” she wrote. “I promise not to give up.”  

The Austrian Association of Athletics Federations announced it would provide an emergency fund of €10,000 for Grunberg. Only two weeks after her dramatic accident during a training jump, the Austrian athlete of the year was visited by the Austrian president Heinz Fischer one day before her 22nd birthday. Fischer, accompanied by his wife Margit, visited Grünberg at the university hospital in Innsbruck.  
Here’s a training feature on Grunberg for Austrian television earlier this year.

During the visit President Fischer not only expressed his sympathies, but also discussed the accident and Grunberg informed him about her progress so far and her expectations for the years to come. After their 15 minutes talk the Austrian president thanked the doctors and nursing staff at the university hospital in Innsbruck for their efforts.  

A donation page has been set up to assist Grunberg’s family with medical costs. To make a contribution, visit www.donationkira.com

Kira Grunberg with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and wife Margit. Image: Tom Sports Consulting

Kira Grunberg with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and wife Margit. Image: Tom Sports Consulting

Image via PhotoRun
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Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy is a freelance journalist, a once-serious, now-retired athlete who writes for a number of international publications in the running industry. He has won two sports-writing awards, the Peter Ball Memorial Award in Ireland and the Wills Writing Award in the UK. Nationally, he previously worked for the Sunday Tribune, Irish Runner magazine and has written for the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, the Guardian and The Independent in Britain. He is a regular contributor to Running Times, Runner's World, RunBlogRun and the IAAF website.
His banter levels are often poor, occasionally exceptional.

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