Former South African road champion Lynette Burger completed a remarkable comeback exactly eight months after a near-fatal accident when she won the 110km Tshwane Diamond Classic in Pretoria on Sunday.
The Demacon stalwart was hit by a taxi on September 26 last year while out training, suffering multiple fractures and internal injuries that necessitated around the clock observation in ICU.
“I was very surprised and emotional afterwards knowing that it was exactly eight months to the day that my crash happened and that I was fighting for my life.
“Now I have won my first race since then,” said the 38-year-old, whose palmares also includes two African road titles.
“I didn’t think it was possible that I could win; I definitely thought my team could. My aim is just to go into a race and do everything I can for them.
“For me it’s more about winning the battle that I’ve gone through. I see this as a positive and it motivates me to want to get even better.”
Burger said the victory highlighted her progress since the accident.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself nowadays. I get up every morning, see how I feel and proceed with whatever I can.
“My heart is happy with the progress I’ve made even though it’s still a way to go. It (the victory) shows I’ve improved a lot over the last couple of months and there’s still hope for the rest of my recovery.”
Burger, who won the Race for Victory prior to the incident, felt her journey back to competitiveness was partly to prove something to herself.
“A lot of people never thought I’d get back on my bike. For me it was never a question though, especially because I can’t remember anything of the accident.
“In my mind it never happened. My bike is still my passion, hobby and outlet. I call it my sanity.”
Managing lingering pain – especially in terms of her lungs and intestines – has become part of her daily routine.
“My lungs haven’t fully recovered and I still have a lot of pain in my chest, from just moving and doing things.
“I also have a hernia and struggle a lot with my diaphragm, so getting air in and out is an issue. This causes stomach aches and pains with my intestines moving. I try to manage my dizzy spells and headaches.
“Eventually you do get used to it, but it would be great just waking up one day without pain,” said Burger, who uses medication to alleviate any discomfort.
There were good and bad days, she admitted, but it was all about how she dealt with it and moved forward.
“I have my family and everyone around me supporting me and that makes a huge difference. I couldn’t have done it without them.
“It is difficult though mentally as everything affects me. I’m used to the way I always operated and not having severe aches,” which, she said, reminded her of the accident every day.
“But I’ve moved on from there.”
She has not gone under the knife since being discharged from high care on October 12.
“This is absolutely amazing. I think there might be ones (operations) coming up, but I’m steering away from it and trying to hide.”
Although back to a competitive level, Burger felt her life was still a fair bit short of coming full circle.
“I believe there’s still something on my path that I need to accomplish. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got that feeling there’s something else out there.
“I’m not sure if it’s for myself or family-related, but I know there’s a bigger picture I need to chase. I don’t think it’s cycling-related though, I think I’ve done what I’ve wanted to in the sport.”
What she was sure of was that her faith had played a big role.
“I’ve questioned God so many times throughout my journey, but he’s never failed me, or my family. I trust and believe that is what has pulled me through to be where I am today.
“I’m still in a race and I will complete it one day. Luckily, we never know when that day will be.”