a story about never giving up

Kieran Behan is an artistic gymnast and an Olympian who has already battled multiple lifetimes of adversity and setbacks in the three decades he has lived so far.

When he was ten years old, a tumor was discovered in his thigh. The operation to remove it went badly and resulted in complications due to nerve damage that left him wheelchair-bound for more than a year. Undeterred, he managed to recover and get himself back to the gym after 15 months. But soon in a training accident, Behan hit his head on the horizontal bar resulting in a severe brain injury that confined him to the wheelchair again. Doctors told him that he would never be able to walk again. But Behan knew deep within that this was not his fate.

He had to retrain his brain to learn basic movements of body and head again and get his coordination back. Nevertheless, after three years of intense rehabilitation and constant support of his family and friends, Behan astonished his doctors by making a full recovery one more time and getting back to training. 

He managed to win several competitions at the junior level and later joined Ireland’s national team and started his journey at the senior international level in 2009. Just a few weeks to go for the European Championships, Behan got hit by another blow when he tore a ligament in one of his knees and soon tore the same ligament in his other knee as well. During those times, he came really close to giving up but somehow he mustered the courage within him to keep pursuing his dreams. 

Behan never gave up regardless of the obstacles that came his way, and in 2011, he won three World Cup medals, secured the number one spot in the world rankings on his preferred apparatus, the floor, and later went on to qualify for the 2012 Olympic games in London.  He accomplished all these feats without any sponsor or national funding; his friends and family supported him throughout via bake sales and other fundraising events and provided him the money he needed for his travel and accommodation expenses. 

Being only the second Irish gymnast to compete in the Olympics, Behan earned worldwide fame and recognition, a sponsor and a grant from the Sports Council. After experiencing terrible pain, setbacks and disappointments, Behan finally had become an Olympic athlete.

Unfortunately, his time in London ended in tears as he slipped twice during the floor routine and couldn’t qualify for the final. He came back in 2016 for the Rio Olympics but there he met misfortune as well as he dislocated his left knee on a tumble (he still managed to complete the rest of the routine). Again, Behan couldn’t qualify for the final and finished 38th, however, he had made both himself and his nation proud. 

Later in the Rio Olympic arena, crutches by his side, he said, “I think, for me personally, with my journey that I’ve had and the troubles I’ve had, this Games, for me, was about proving myself as an athlete. And to even qualify through everything I’ve been through, for me as an athlete, that is my proudest moment… If I’ve inspired anyone out there, then that’s what I’m going to be so proud of. To have gone out there and give it my all, you can’t really ask for much more.”

Behan later shared a glimpse of the same optimistic and philosophical outlook that propelled him through every adversity and got him on the other side mightier and stronger with these words, “At the end of the day, life is life, isn’t it? You’ve got to find positivity and pick yourself back up and whatever happens, happens.”

On top of that, despite achieving all the above-mentioned accolades through his own perseverance, grit and fortitude, he never misses a chance to say thank you to his family, friends, coaches and supporters, and credits them equally for his success. 

Behan is not only a true embodiment of the Olympic spirit but a glorious example of humility and someone with a ‘never give up’ attitude. His story illustrates that if you are truly committed to your dreams and pursue them with grit and perseverance and give it your all, then you’re a winner irrespective of the outcomes. As another sportsman and champion Rocky Balboa said, “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”