Izquierdo fights back from career-threatening injury to win historic medal
Speed skater Nil Llop Izquierdo (ESP) was told by doctors he would never skate again after suffering a serious leg injury a year and a half ago.
Thanks to his determination and perseverance, however, Llop Izquierdo not only made his way back into the sport but claimed Spain’s first-ever medal at a Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The 17-year-old won silver in the men’s 500m event on Sunday at the St. Moritz Speed Skating Oval. He finished in 36.60 seconds, 0.18 seconds behind Yamamoto Yudai (JPN).
The performance capped a remarkable comeback for Llop Izquierdo. During a roller blading training session in Barcelona in July 2018, he swerved to avoid a child and crashed into a tree, fracturing his right thigh.
“The doctors told me that I could never skate again,” he said.
Refusing to accept that his career was over, Llop Izquierdo undertook seven months of rigorous rehabilitation, including workout regimes on the beaches of Barcelona.
He managed to defy the odds and returned to roller skating competitions in the summer and speed skating in the winter.
Llop Izquierdo won a gold medal at the 2019 World Roller Games in Barcelona and followed that up with his historic silver medal in Lausanne.
There was only one way to celebrate with his parents in St. Moritz.
“I went for paella at a restaurant in the city centre together with my family and teammates,” he said. “We all celebrated together and I felt like being back home for one night.”
Llop Izquierdo was unable to emulate his medal-winning performance on Monday, however, finishing eighth in the 1500m.
“The 500 meters is my favourite distance, as I consider myself more as a sprinter,” he said. “That is why I normally start too fast, but this time I started too slow and was not able to accelerate anymore.
“But it is a privilege for me to compete at the Games, especially after being told I could never skate again, I am just very happy to even be here at all.”