I guess I'm not afraid to die as much as I'm afraid of not being able to compete. —Arielle Martin
It was a beautiful birthday.
The energy at the track was electric with excitement as the U.S. BMX cyclists wrapped up training. A friend brought cookies to celebrate Arielle Martin's 27th birthday, and she was elated to receive her U.S. Olympic Team uniform that morning — July 30.
The Lone Peak and BYU alum marveled at how good she felt and how well she was riding in what was to be her last training ride before she and her teammates headed to London to compete in the Olympics BMX events.
"I was thinking it was the best birthday ever," Martin told BMX News in an exclusive podcast posted to their website on Aug. 12. "It was an awesome experience."
She felt herself smile as she landed the track's second jump and then pushed hard into the third and final jump.
"I remember thinking, one pedal, two pedal, three pedal and then I felt it," she said of the bike chain either breaking or falling off. "I don't know if you've ever lost a chain before, but it's such a surreal feeling to be throwing down that much power, pedaling at 180 RPMs and having no resistance."
Martin describes in the podcast her crash and how she knew she was severely injured because of the searing pain in her side. She's raced BMX bikes so long she doesn't even remember her first race. And she's suffered her share of injuries during her career, but nothing compared to the lacerated liver she sustained that morning.
"Nothing as painful as that," she told BMX News on the same day she was released from a San Diego hospital. "I was almost screaming at the poor med staff, just knock me out."
Medical personal could see how distended her abdomen was — a sign that the liver was bleeding profusely into her body. As doctors assessed her, she pondered her own questions, "Am I going to be okay? Am I still going to be able to go to London?" She realized she was seriously hurt.
Martin, who narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic team in her sport's inaugural appearance in the Summer Games in 2008, was asked in the podcast about her fears as she woke up from that initial surgery.
"Scared for my life? No," she said. "More scared for the fact that I thought I was losing my Olympic spot, which is obviously what happened. That was the fear I was having at the moment. I guess I'm not afraid to die as much as I'm afraid of not being able to compete."
Martin was injured on Monday, July 30, just two days before she was scheduled to travel to London with the rest of the U.S. BMX Team. The group chose to skip opening ceremonies so they could train at their own facilities in California.
In the podcast with BMXNews.com, Martin said her coach and other members of USA cycling were at the hospital and she begged them to let her go to London, obviously unaware how life-threatening her injuries were at the time.
"I remember crying and pleading, just let me go for a day," she said as emotion overwhelms her. "Let me be an Olympian before you replace me."
The podcast details her accident, her recovery and the devastation of realizing that she would miss out on her second Olympic Games. It also contains some laughs, including the fact that she tried to book a plane ticket to London on her phone shortly after emerging from surgery (something she doesn't remember due to heavy medications).
Martin is breathtakingly honest and detailed in the podcast with BMX News about how difficult the last few weeks have been, including the realization that she would not be able to participate in the London Olympics.
"At the end of the day, it was about representing our country, and I wasn't able to do that," she said. Martin praised her replacement Brooke Crain and her performance in London.
"I'm proud of her," she said. "She did a wonderful job."
She also talks about the possibility of taking another shot at the Olympic Games — 2016.
"Rio is not out of the question for me," she said discussing other BMX racers who were competitive, even dominant into their mid-30s, and pointing out that she just turned 27. "I'm definitely considering it. That being said, it's hard to commit when I'm still in the hospital and I can't even walk very far on my own."