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To protect up & coming athletes - a goal of this website is that the US Olympic Committee be required to report accidents when an athlete is left incapacitated in overseas competition.
 
 
 
 
Catastrophic Injury - Athens, Greece - Olympic Test Event Racing Area - Summer 2002
 
The US Sailing Team elite athlete could give no statement.  She was comatose - near death from blunt trauma head injury/near drowning.

 
A likely result of near drowning, pneumonia set in after a few days. For over 2 weeks, the comatose US athlete was kept in Athens, Greece hospitals.
 
No accident/evidence report was made by the athlete's national governing body - US Sailing - or the US Olympic Committee.

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Fortunately, the USOC elite athlete survived the extended stay in Greek hospitals. 
 
Unfortunately, the coach's statement is contradicted by later-discovered facts which appear to establish that the powerboat ran over the US athlete while she was stopped sitting on her board.
 
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Athlete Kim Birkenfeld woke up over a month later in US hospital.  She never regained use of her arms. Training for how to breathe, speak and walk is a never-ending process.  
 
At the time of the 2002 accident, she held #1 ranking on the US Sailing Team in the sport of Olympic-class windsurfing, training for Athens 2004. But that day was her last day to be an athlete.

At September 2014, the question remains without answer - Did the NZ powerboat run over the US athlete or did the athlete run into the powerboat?

 

 

New Zealand Olympic Sailing Team Powerboat (YNZ)
YachtingNewZealandPowerboat.jpg

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Greek Police Report
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The report blames the accident on the US athlete - while omitting evidence seen on the right of this page including:
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1.That the athlete's injuries included blunt force trauma to the back of her skull, 12 fractured teeth, and fractured jaw.
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2.That damage to the athlete's equipment is limited to the middle of her windsurfing board.

Challenges

When Kim woke from coma a month after the accident in September 2002, she found herself back in the US, but was unable to speak or walk.  Shortly thereafter, in spite of head-injury, she was prescribed narcotics.

In 2004, while on narcotics, she was advised not to file proceedings in the US, but to instead file in New Zealand. See below as to NZ court proceedings.

In January 2010,  in spite of continued prescriptions from doctors, Birkenfeld took herself off all narcotic-based medication.

In February 2010, following the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games death of luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili - she found inspiration and strength to publish this website.

Inspiration and Strength

"God Bless Nodar.  When the Olympic family released statement (same day) that the luge track accident was the athlete's own fault, I became angry. 

I found inspiration to fight back so the voiceless athlete's side of story is heard - this time.

Never Give Up

It is not a far step - had I not survived extended stay in Greek hospital while comatose with pneumonia, my story would have had the same ending: "athlete's own fault."

The Greek police report was the only evidence report made. No accident report was made by US Sailing or US Olympic Committee.

Adding to challenges, USOC Elite Athlete Health Insurance was turned on and off like a light switch until Medicare kicked in years later.

A take-home from my story is that within the Olympic family - after a catastrophic accident - reasonable procedure is lacking.

By getting this story out, changes may be made to protect the back of all up-and-coming athletes."

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High Court Wellington CIV 2004-485-1657
 
 Kimberly Birkenfeld v Bruce Anthony Kendall and Yachting New Zealand and International Sailing Federation (ISAF)
 
In August 2004, with her thinking distorted by prescribed narcotics, Birkenfeld was advised to file proceedings in New Zealand. Her NZ attorney told her it was an admiralty proceeding. 

After 7 years of unremitting motions, pre-trial hearings, papers and 3 countersuits, New Zealand courts effectively said that neither the public, the athlete, nor her family have right to know how the accident happened that left Birkenfeld crippled for life.  There has never been a determination on the merits.x

 
The question remains without answer- Did the NZ powerboat run over the US athlete or did the athlete run into the powerboat?
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CourtsofNewZealand.jpg
Wellington, New Zealand-Court of Appeal Nov. 2008
BirkenfeldCourt_AppearanceNewZealand.jpg
Former elite athlete Birkenfeld leaves NZ Court-She is unable to walk without assistance.

Kim lives in Miami. She remains homebound due to severe disabilities resulting from the 2002 Olympic Test Event accident. 
 
She enjoys a distant view of athletes training at the US Sailing Olympic Training Center in Coconut Grove.

 * In May 2002, Kimberly2004.com was launched as a very different site. The objective was to be fundraising for Birkenfeld's Athens 2004 Olympic Campaign.

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US athlete: Evidence shows stopped in the water
SittingonOlympicWindsurfingBoard.jpg

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xEvidence omitted from the police report:

KimBirkenfeldHeadInjury1.JPG
1. US athlete: blunt-force trauma to back of skull (depressed skull fracture)

 

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Olympicwindsurfphoto.jpg
2. US athlete's Olympic windsurfing board is damaged only in the middle

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