For Simon Kean, it was supposed to be a relaxing weekend getaway with friends at a chalet in La Tuque, Que. But he found himself lying in the middle of the woods pinned beneath an all-terrain vehicle, his right leg ripped and mangled.
Kean was a kid that had been known to party in the past, but there was no booze or goofing around that day as they went for a leisurely ride off-road. He was a passenger while his buddy was at the wheel and simply lost control, flipping the ATV.
When the 23-year-old Kean steps into the ring at the London Olympics as a super-heavyweight boxer representing Canada, he will thank his lucky stars that he can still walk, let alone fight. It was just three summers ago that Kean suffered a badly broken leg in the accident and an infection so severe, doctors feared an amputation..
"His leg looked like a torn piece of meat, it was such a spectacular injury," said his coach, Jimmy Boisvert. "But Simon stayed very brave, very positive."
In a lengthy surgery in Montreal, they took muscle from higher up on his right leg and used it to repair the badly deformed ankle area using a graft. The boxer who had been known for his muscular build and impressive size was losing weight during his lengthy stay in hospital. His ankle remained misshapen, and he had a large scar from hip to knee, but the graft was successful, and there was no need to amputate.
As Boisvert explained, "Simon said, 'I don't care about aesthetics. I'm just concerned about walking, and then I'm going to box again soon.' "
He spent three months in a wheelchair, then two more walking with canes. He had physiotherapy and did whatever he could to rebuild his fitness.
"I would go to the gym and get out of my wheelchair and sit on the bench to do upper-body weights as well as I could," said Kean. "After a couple of months, I was able to start walking."
Less than six months after the accident – far ahead of any timeline projected by his doctors – Kean returned to the training. He continually worked to show Boisvert he was healed, even smacking his own leg with a magazine to prove he was pain-free.
The duo had worked together at Club de boxe Performance in Trois-Rivières since Kean came over from a small underground boxing club at 16. Boisvert continued with his plan to make Kean into a unique super-heavyweight fighter – a big man with great power as well as the quickness and athleticism of a middleweight boxer.
Kean had been an aggressive young boy whose parents put him in judo to help channel his energy. He was also a linebacker on his high-school football team. Boisvert was excited to add technical skills to that natural athleticism, despite warnings from people that Kean liked to party and may not keep focus.