William Fox-Pitt is a five-time Olympian and an amazing athlete. He’s also batsh*t insane.
Let’s examine the evidence…
First, there was the whole coma-to-Rio in ten months thing. Most people aim to walk and talk with some semblance of normality after a traumatic brain injury. Fox-Pitt aimed for the Olympics. Because he’s bonkers.
“I’ve always had Rio in the back of my mind. It’s been brilliant having that as a target. A totally unrealistic one, but it was there. I thought it was fine but nobody else did,” said Fox-Pitt.
Just to put that improbable goal into context, when the three-time Olympic medalist awoke from his coma at the end of October he was mentally and physically incapacitated. Lying unconscious in a hospital bed tends to have that effect on people.
“I think what I was so surprised about was yes, I was concussed, but I lost so much fitness. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks, but I was like a vegetable,” said a perplexed Fox-Pitt.
“When I came round I couldn’t pick up a child. I was just disabled, just really compromised.”
Like any non-rational person, Fox-Pitt set the goal of riding again by Christmas. Only that wasn’t exactly realistic. (See: coma.)
“Suddenly it’s Christmas in two days time and I haven’t been near a horse,” recalled Fox-Pitt. “So I made myself ride before Christmas and that was okay. My balance obviously went with my sight.”
Yeah, that’s right. He couldn’t see after the coma.
“My sight was quite dodgy,” he continued. “It went from very vague and blurred to being double. Once it was double I could ride.”
Naturally, that’s when the former world #1 started jumping. Because who needs to see a distance, right?
“Chilli was very good, actually. He didn’t mind me missing [to the jump]. He just went with it. But to be honest, when I was jumping in the beginning there were two jumps. I didn’t know until the last stride which one I was jumping,” revealed Fox-Pitt.
That double vision thing? It lasted FIVE MONTHS, which was seven months fewer than doctors said it would be but one month more than Fox-Pitt was aiming for:
“The ophthalmologist, he really took me under his wing. His professors in America were advising him no one gets it done in under a year. I said, ‘I need to be competing by April.’ His language wasn’t repeatable.”
Two-hours of “endless eye exercises” a day, for three months, helped retrained Fox-Pitt’s sight. But then there was the whole mental fatigue that continues to be a problem.
“Mentally, I was very tired,” said the 47-year-old. “I probably still I am. I’m still quite dozy. I’m waking up but it’s slow.”
Normal people take a nap when they’re tired. Daft-Pitt worked out more.
“I’ve done more fitness training than I ever have in my life [preparing for Rio]. I’ve got a fitness trainer at home. I’ve got a physiotherapist here [at the Games]. I’ve got people on my case. It’s not been an easy few months,” he confessed.
That’s putting it lightly.
Despite an irrational list of overwhelming challenges, Fox-Pitt didn’t just qualify for the Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic eventing team, he was leading after the dressage phase. An unfortunate rider error on the cross country course puts him out of medal contention. But you just know eventing’s lovable lunatic is coming up with some other equally ludicrous goal to set his sights on.
Here’s hoping he makes wearing a helmet part of it.
Fox-Pitt still dons a top hat in dressage, despite a traumatic brain injury that puts him at a significantly higher risk for future mild cognitive impairments (MCI’s), chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and post-concussion syndrome, among other undesirable things. That’s one irrational decision it’s hard to get your head around considering the sport’s track record:
“I am very lucky. I am very happy to be here. What’s great is that our sport can have some sad stories, and it’s just brilliant that so far I am not a sad story,” said Fox-Pitt. “I am ok. I am a good example, I think that’s great. Having people supporting you and wishing you well is brilliant.”
Spoken like a true lunatic.