Moments earlier, training for the weekend’s SuperSport race meeting, she had approached a corner at high speed and had lost control of her Kawasaki. The bike spat the little Spanish girl into the gravel, sending her sprawling.
“It was my first time on a strange track, so I went a lot faster than I could on a turn and got out into the gravel,” Carrasco told CNN from his home in Barcelona. “It wasn’t a big accident, of course, maybe it was a stupid accident, but I had bad luck and got hurt a lot in this stupid accident.”
The “stupid crash” was about to present Carrasco with perhaps the biggest challenge of his life.
“I don’t remember the first moment after the accident because I hit my head and I don’t remember some things,” she explains. “But my earliest memories are at the circuit hospital, I remember the pain in my back.”
Carrasco had fractured two vertebrae. It was the kind of injury that ended a career, or worse. At the very least, a long road to recovery lay ahead of her, but Carrasco is no ordinary athlete. As the first woman to win a solo motorcycle championship, the 24-year-old is used to baffling skeptics.
“I tried to react to this injury in a normal way,” she continues. “I could move my legs, my arms, every movement so I wasn’t afraid [that I] can no longer run. ”
She was transferred to a hospital in Barcelona, where surgeons undertook the painstaking and delicate procedure of screwing titanium plates into her spine. Time spent in the hospital has been difficult, she admits, especially with strict social distancing in place due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “This period has been the most difficult for sure,” she told CNN.
Her mother was able to stay by her bedside in the hospital, while the rest of her family moved to Barcelona from her hometown of Murcia so that they could at least be nearby. “Of course, it’s more difficult than a normal situation, because the family always wants to help,” she continues. “It was difficult for them to be outside the hospital and do nothing.”
One constant throughout the process, however, was Carrasco’s social media tracking. She documented every key moment of her recovery, reassuring fans at every turn. Sometimes that meant sharing striking images. She smiled broadly as she remembered first revealing the giant scar that now spans almost half the length of her spine, stapled together.
“I went home, and I was with my dad here, and he took the picture because I asked him to do it, to see how the scar was,” she explains. “I showed it because I think social media is good for being close to the fans. We always show the good times. […] but then behind all of these things runners have to go through tough times in their career, and it’s important that they know that too […] I wanted to incorporate them into my recovery. ”
Many staples holding it together
Carrasco admits she was a little shocked at the size of the scar the first time she saw it.
“Of course, I thought it was a little smaller, because the first time you see it it’s very, very big,” she laughs. “It’s not the first, and it sure won’t be the last of my career, so I have to live with that, and after a while I start to see it as usual, the good thing is I got it. ‘ve got on my back, so normally I don’t see it and that’s not a problem for sure. ”
She also shared an extraordinary x-ray of her operation, showing the two titanium plates, along with 13 screws and numerous staples holding her together, in tribute to her surgical team. “Thanks to their great work, I can now exercise and in a few months will be in good shape again!” She wrote on Instagram.
Even from her hospital bed, she still insisted on watching the next race weekend. Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea won his World Superbike race in Barcelona and wore one of Carrasco’s signature “Pink Warrior” t-shirts on the podium, a gesture that meant a lot to the Spaniard. “Seeing him with my t-shirt on, and doing that was really cool, for me and my family.”
The day after the operation, Carrasco was able to take his first steps with ginger.
“It was strange to walk again,” she explains. “After that I could move around a bit, with the help of my mom or someone, but only from my bed to the toilet or something like that.”
About a week and a half later, she says she was able to return home. Her rehabilitation began in earnest a month after the operation – swimming and other exercises with her personal trainer to gradually develop her mobility.
“I was like that,” Carrasco laughed and stiffened his stiff, straight back. Eventually she was able to go back to something that looked like her normal training regimen.
Just an hour after medics gave him the green light to ride, Carrasco was in the saddle. “My team was waiting for me on the circuit with a small motorbike,” she smiles. “It was really nice … a nice step in my recovery.”
She insists she never doubted her return to racing, but two outside factors played a key role. First of all, his team, Provec Kawasaki, renewed his contract, just six weeks after his accident, when his return was by no means certain.
“It was really important to me,” she explains. “If you don’t have a team it’s really hard, and after an injury like that if the team doesn’t believe you’ll come back to the race it’s hard to find a bike. […] I’m really grateful to them because no one has stopped believing in them. “
Second, the Covid-19 restrictions have delayed the start of the season. “I had one more month before the first race; I wasn’t 100% ready to take the start, but I felt pretty good.
Fairy tale victory
Then the fairy tale, in only his second race, at the Marco Simoncelli circuit in Misano, Italy, Carrasco claimed an unlikely victory, just eight months after his accident:
“Misano’s race was really crazy,” she smiles. “In the last lap I was lucky, I was in the right place in the straight line, I could pass I think seven, eight riders in the last four corners […] finishing second would have been good in this race, but winning was even better for me, for the team. They must have waited for me for several months, so being back and winning was really nice for them and for me. ”
Eight-time Grand Prix World Champion Marc Marquez was among those who congratulated Carrasco on his return. “I was really happy for her,” he told reporters ahead of his own victory in Germany last month. “I was really happy, and it was great to see that after such a long recovery from injury, it’s like having extra fuel in you.”
Off the track, Carrasco launched another challenge: she studies law at UCAM: “I started this, because in racing you never know when your last race is, so it’s my plan B […] I would love to have my team or manage another rider when I stop racing, so it’s important to know what you’re doing. I want to finish this and then try to combine it with my racing experience and try to help others. ”
Few would bet against this extraordinary horsewoman who achieved her goal.
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