At last year’s UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Papendal, the Netherlands, things went badly south for double Olympic Champion Mariana Pajón: a crash on the first jump resulted in a knee injury that took the Colombian out for the rest of the 2018 season
After an operation, Pajón had to endure months of rest before being allowed to get back to normal – for a BMX pro - training and routines. Killing time while not being very mobile can be devastating. Add to that seeing others race week in and week out and it becomes even worse, especially mentally.
Not having weekly race updates to share with your almost 2 million Instagram followers creates a difficult void but Pajón was able to rely on the support of husband Vincent Pelluard, family and friends. Slowly but surely, the end of her enforced non-active life got nearer, and the green light to start working out must have felt like a victory in itself.
While dreaming of a third Olympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020, Pajón took the recovery process one step at a time, and at the beginning of 2019 made a welcome return to the international BMX Racing circuit.
Mariana Pajón has been racing BMX since the age of four. She knows it takes time to get back in the flow of things, which is why she is hitting many races along the way, at different levels from local events to Class 1 events, French Cups and even the UCI World Cups where she is currently ranked ninth after stops in Manchester (GBR), Papendal (NED) and Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines (FRA).
Fourth place is her best UCI World Cup result this season, an indication that she has not yet made a full return to best form. However, she is going from strength to strength, and we catch up with her as she continues her Tokyo 2020 campaign.
Interview with Mariana Pajón
What was your injury?
A partial rupture of the collateral medial ligament with broken tibial saucers, and a nerve was touched.
How long was the recovery time before you could race again?
I fell on 6 May 2018 and did my first practice on 28 February 2019.
What did you do to kill time when you couldn’t train/ride your bike?
I did a lot of things that I wasn't able to do my whole life: just stay home, be with family and friends, and have time just for me. And I spent a lot of time on the house Vincent and I are building. I also had a lot of time to develop my brand so it wasn't easy but at least some positive stuff. This injury made me appreciate a lot of things in my life… it slowed it down.
Who were your biggest supporters off the bike?
My number one supporters were my family, my husband who was there to dry my tears, friends such as Andrea Escobar who took time to be with me and motivated me to pedal again. Andrés Arenas who made me laugh every day and many more. Doctors and therapists for having me every day for rehab and keeping me positive, and everyone on social media, they sent some beautiful messages that made me want to be on a bike again.
How did you feel at your first race back?
My first race back was like winning an Olympic gold again, I didn't know If I was going to be able to walk properly… or even pedal again, so just having my gear on and being on the gate was so unreal.The night before the race I couldn't sleep just wondering if I would be able to do a full lap, so it was a really emotional race weekend for me.
When do you need to be back at 100%?
I'm working really hard to be on my 100%. I still have a long way, I lost all my muscles and movement, had two surgeries and I'm having another one so it's a process – I have improved a lot from the first World Cup in Manchester to the last stop in France so that gives me hope. I still pedal compensating with my hip and I'm working on having a round pedal and my strength back. I'm really happy with how I'm feeling on the track and just to be back racing and representing my country.
I want to thank everyone for being so kind in this process and for sending positive energy. It's helping! 🤗