BRANDON Conway's damaged knees are a permanent reminder of his brush with death in January last year.
The 22-year-old was hit by a car in a horror crash at Bonny Hills during what was meant to be a regulation morning training ride with the impact throwing him over the handlebars.
"There was nowhere to go," he recalled.
"I was still conscious, but before I knew it I was on the ground, but couldn't bend my legs because I was in so much pain.
"I could see my knees were very misshapen and the fear was whether I'd be able to walk again."
The result was a two-week stay in hospital and a painstaking six-week recovery period that required him to use crutches and a wheelchair.
"My patience really paid off and the physio helped me get my strength and mobility back and they have trained me to be a pretty strong athlete," Conway said.
A determination to return to full fitness has proven to be a motivating factor.
"I really enjoy this sport and I have so many years now that I can't give it up; I want another shot."
Eighteen months on, the 22-year-old has set himself a goal of returning to the Cycling NSW under-23 representative stage.
The Port Macquarie cyclist simply wasn't ready to sell his bike so he called on the services of a psychologist to help him battle the mental demons of returning to the road.
"The mental side was a really tough side of it, but I had really good help from a psychologist and he really helped out with my thinking patterns," he said.
"As I've gotten better, my mental state has also got a lot better and it's really helped me push on to become the athlete I am now.
"I consider myself extremely lucky; first that the injury wasn't worse in many ways and second that I survived in the first place.
"It was a huge impact and it really did some damage."
While Conway lost an important 12 months out of racing in the under-23 division, he already has his sights set on a return.
"I want to compete in road racing again and gain enough skill and experience to race at the national championships in January 2021," he said.
"There has been some flashbacks of the accident, but over time I'm coming to face the reality of where I am and I have really moved forward quite well mentally."
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