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Brennen’s Courageous Battle

Ron Kontura
2004 O Trials
Brennen’s Courageous Battle

Life is hard and can get difficult at times. How we respond under these circumstances can determine the outcome. On Tuesday night at the Olympic Trials in St. Louis an individual took the board and competed in an event that she qualified for over a year ago, but a lot can happen in a year.

Character is the first word that comes to mind when the name Kellie Brennen is mentioned this week. The next is determination. You see, Kellie has not had the best year of training for the Olympic Trials. Sure she has been an accomplished diver in the past, but this year has been one of life and death for Kellie.

Within the past year, it was discovered that Kellie had Cervical Cancer and had to undergo cancer treatments. The treatments went extremely well and Kellie was declared cancer free. Kellie also was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to have brain surgery. Surgery went very well and she started to dream again about the Olympics. Her brain surgery was healing and the Olympic Dream began to burn again for her. The trials were months away and Kellie was determined to be there. Two months after her brain surgery she started her training to get ready for the Olympic Trials.

If  the personal life circumstances Kellie had to deal with weren’t enough, there were the demands of training in a sport that is very demanding on the body. During her training with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, Kellie slipped off the board on a 305B and landing on the water the wrong way bruising her lungs and rupturing the capillaries on the lungs. This was yet another set back to her Olympic Dreams. But Kellie’s attitude and excitement for the diving at the trials continued to burn bright. She battled through the crash and continued to get ready for the Trials.

On a photo shoot less than a month before the Trials, Kellie was performing a dive she has done thousands of times before but something went wrong on the entry. Off the 10-Meter Platform she missed her hands on her entry forcing her wrist into her head on impact. Something that happens to divers all the time proved to be yet another set back for Kellie. Her wrist was fractured and there was not enough time to allow the bone to heal before the trials. Kellie had to make a decision, rest the wrist or fight through the pain?

After talking with her coach, Kim Berbari, and sports medicine personnel, they determined that with the right brace and support on the wrist they could still compete at the Trials. Kellie was down, but she was not out and after everything that she had been through, what’s a fractured wrist?

This week, along with her sister Allison, the Brennen’s had a family celebration in St. Louis. Kellie competed with the best diver’s that the United States has to offer and was in the contest to make the finals up until her last dive. Sure Kellie experienced pain throughout the meet, but nothing can compare to the joy she received every time the announcer read off her scores. For it wasn’t so much about the number that was being read, as it was that she was living out her dream. Kellie finished in 14th place on Tuesday night at the Olympic Trials and was out of qualifying for the finals by 10 points. Kellie’s sister Allison is in 7th place heading into the finals on Saturday afternoon.

The Brennen Family has so much to be thankful for and Saturday will be a celebration of life and the ability to dream beyond the impossible dreams. Today, Kellie is cancer free and tumor free. She is taking medication for her seizures and may have to have a follow-up surgery at a latter time in life. But next up for Kellie, making the finals this summer in Mission Viejo at the USA Diving National Championships.

-Ron Kontura

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