Faith and family sustain BMX racer Arielle Martin in wake of Olympics heartbreak
"The outpouring has been tremendous," she said. "I didn't realize how many people out there had been following me, cheering me on and were so concerned for me. … It definitely lifted my spirits quite a bit."
She also offered words of support and encouragement to her teammates, including Crain, who rode with Martin's initials on her gloves.
"I watched it all," said Martin, who was released from the hospital on Aug. 12. "I had nothing else to do in the hospital, and I still love the Olympics with all of my heart. I also had friends competing in other disciplines that I wanted to watch. One of my really good friends, Amy Hastings, is a 10K track runner and she wrote 15 on her shoes as a tribute to me when she ran her final; then Brooke, of course, wrote AMV on her glove when she raced the BMX final. It was hard for sure; I think I cried a lot, especially when I saw both of those, but we can blame the meds on that."
Home and husband
Martin and her husband, Mike Verhaaren, 28, left the hospital on Aug. 12, and drove home to Spanaway, Wash. Verhaaren is a sergeant and Black Hawk crew chief with the U.S. Army. He is currently stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., but has been deployed four times and has done three overseas tours since the couple married. The military has allowed him leave to care for Martin, and she said he hasn't left her side since the accident.
"His unit has been incredibly understanding of my condition and has given him permissive leave to take care of me. We are so grateful to them for their understanding and respect for families," she said.
Despite attending the same high school and having mutual friends, the pair didn't meet until after he'd served an LDS mission to Russia and she was a sophomore at BYU.
"We met through those friends at a college bonfire up (American Fork) Canyon when I was a sophomore at BYU," she said. "He was a few months home from his mission to St. Petersburg, Russia, and attending UVSC. We dated and it got pretty serious pretty fast. I have to admit I broke up with him three times during our year-and-a-half courtship."
Her fear was of being reduced to a stereotype and that if she married it would be more difficult to achieve her Olympic dream.
"It's been quite the opposite actually," she said. "His financial and emotional support has made everything easier. We met up after six months of no contact, and that's when he told me he had joined the Army and was going into basic training by the end of the month. I actually had to convince him pretty hard to get back together once I realized he was the greatest thing that ever happened to me."
The couple married in the Mount Timpanogos Temple on Dec. 21, 2006, the day after she took her last final test at BYU.
While the pain of missing the Olympics was still fresh, some friends of Verhaaren's asked Martin to speak by phone to a group of LDS youths. She was hesitant to say yes.
"Initially I wanted to decline because I wasn't sure I was emotionally ready," she said. "The podcast (with BMXnews.com) was hard enough, and when the Spirit and church is involved I was afraid my emotions would make me unable to speak. By the time it rolled around though I felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do. Olympian or not, that was my mission, and I needed to go through with it. So I shared some of my story with them and my testimony. They in turn sang me a beautiful hymn, 'Come, Come, Ye Saints' with a few lyric changes in my honor. It did indeed strengthen me and I am grateful for the opportunity."
Martin said she's grateful for her family, friends, colleagues and even strangers for the love and support that has sustained her throughout her recovery.
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