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Burch steps closer to Rio goal

Road to recovery: Burch has returned to training after suffering serious knee injuries in March. He hopes to race competitively in November in Italy

Roy-Allan Burch hopes to celebrate his 30th birthday in November by making his long-awaited return to competitive swimming as he recovers from serious knee injuries.

Burch, who is fighting to be fit for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, ruptured both patella tendons during a horrific training incident in March, leaving him wheelchair-bound for about three months. The dream of reaching his third Olympics, however, has kept Burch going through his challenging six months of rehabilitation.

“I’m looking at November, I just want to get a lot more strength over September and October,” said Burch, who lives in North Carolina.

“I’m looking at November 7 and 8 when my team will do a competition in Italy, so I may go over there for the two-day weekend. It’s a little quieter but will help bring the best out of me.

“I could probably compete now, I raced today in practice but I don’t want to put anything on the official clock. We did three races today and they went OK for me, much better than I had expected, so I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve been able to do up to this point.

“Right now it is just about getting my leg strength back, my quadriceps are still pretty weak so it’s tough to get a good push off the wall and a good start like how I used to.”

Burch was assisted in his recovery by a former Saltus Grammar School friend, Ben Wicks, who, upon learning of Burch’s injuries, contacted him and offered to help out with his rehabilitation.

They had not seen each other in years after leaving school. Wicks now has a Master’s degree in muscle activation techniques and practices the biomechanically-based system of treatment which is used for surgery rehabilitation, injury recovery and injury prevention.

Wicks has been using that method of treatment for the past five years and has spent two years travelling on the PGA Tour and working with various professional athletes from the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

He has a firm understanding of what Burch is going through as he has suffered from a bilateral inguinal hernia, which went undiagnosed for just over a year.

Wicks had to have a full reconstruction on his lower abdomen and because of the severity of the surgery he, like Burch, had to learn how to walk again.

“I fully believe that with Roy’s unstoppable determination and using muscle activation therapy as an adjunct to his recovery programme, he will be more than ready for Rio 2016,” Wicks said.

Burch is happy to be on his feet again after months of therapy but the recovery continues.

“I’m almost six months out at this point and that’s what’s to be expected, my doctor thought it would be nine months,” he said. “I followed the rules and did everything I was told to do. I was able to recover at a good rate.

“I was restricted to my bed for a month and was in a wheelchair for almost three months so it was difficult to see the light.

“Once I got past four months things took off, I was able to gain a lot more strength and walking around became a lot easier.

“[Being in the water] takes the gravity off my joints so I can run and do other exercises that take the weight off my knees. It would have been easier to quit but it is not in my personality to stop and a lot of people have been very supportive and helped drive me back to 100 per cent.”

Having spent months in a wheelchair Burch has a greater appreciation for the accomplishments of another Bermudian athlete, Jessica Lewis, who won the gold medal at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto in August when she shattered the T53 100 metres Games record.

“The immense challenges she has, I just couldn’t imagine and I definitely respect her for what she’s been able to do,” Burch said.

“Bermuda should really take notice of the amount of hard work she has to put in. She’s an inspiration for sure.

“If she can get out there and work hard then I can surely get up and work hard.”