In the race finishes, no matter how scary and fast the field was going, there would be this firmly set jaw-line and an uncanny, razor-sharp look in his eyes that appeared when he was presented with a challenge. It was the same for a chequered flag, a puzzling party-trick or a confronting social situation; I was continually stunned by the tenacity and power stored inside Jamie Kelly.
Today’s affable GIANT road and track cyclist has a colorful past; @bigkels67 was reputedly known in Australia during the early 1990’s as one of the fastest road-sprinters in the country, and also abroad. Training under Australian Head Track Coach, Charlie Walsh prior to 1991, he then spear-headed our AUS Olympic road-racing campaign scoring several stage wins under Heiko Salzwedel (imported specialist coach from the Eastern Bloc). Heiko ensured that we rode only in top-ranking invitational international cycling tours against many formidable opponents of the time like Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel. Back then, Australian riders were relatively uncommon and unwelcome at the arrow-head of Euro racing bunches and rarely found performing in the top 3 on race results.
Jamie had that rare mix of ability that only the top all-round racers possess of being very fast and very strong at once, even in the elite racing levels (i.e. having over 5.2 W/Kg sustained FTP coupled with 1600-1800 Watt sprints at the end of a 6-hour road race). He was talented enough to join our Olympic 100km road time-trial team and also finish off a 60kph 5-man lead-out train with a 70+kph sprint into the town finishes. The velocity that he could generate off the top of a roaring 200-rider peloton charging into a finishing straight was incredible and we still get glimpses of that formidable athletic power from time to time these days in local coffee-shop sprints.
However, times have been tough for this guy in recent years. As a trained life-transition counsellor, I know that anyone experiencing such loss combinations as marriage separation, career upheaval and a family death within a 2-year period is in a high-risk group for just coping with life. Jamie had this and then more going on just before a back-breaking cycling crash in September 2016, so suffering a paralysing stroke a year later on Dec 18th has not surprisingly stopped the big sprinter in his tracks; but I believe it’s only for a few moments. However, these moments could alter his life quite a bit though, because Jamie’s skills in house-painting, massage and bike servicing all rely on good physical mobility to make an income.
Now just about to enter the recovery and rehabilitation wards at Monash Clayton Hospital, we are hopeful that his latest road is one to a full recovery. Recent news from a physio friend, Holli is that some body connections are starting to appear again in small movements, so a new kind of challenge has begun. While his situation is precariously uncertain, his broad network of friends and supporters believe that the toughness well known of a Kelly cycling family member will help carry him through, whatever it takes. So can we.
What I know is that Jamie Kelly has been popularly liked by people all throughout his life – despite being a rather intimidating road-sprinter that I had to learn not to fear (but I still do!). I think it’s his life attitude, one with great candor, and humorous pranking, a kind of poke fun at the world outlook. People have come from all over the planet now to say hi again in this latest dramatic turn, and have started helping Big Kel through contributions at the Facebook fundraiser page link below. It’s a heart-warming thing to see so many people pulling together; they must’ve been inspired, or been shown how to do something by him, or just lifted by his friendly spirit along their way – I know I was.
One thing IS for sure though. I saw it when I visited him last Sunday in the hospital. That set jaw and the steely look in his eyes is back once more, as he strained out some words to me that damn nearly made me cry, “Tell them all thanks, and I’ll be back on my bike soon”. #gobigkel
UPDATE 15.2.18 – Jamie took his first step walking again last week and is on the long road back now.
If you’d like to $upport Big Kel’s comeback, see Facebook > https://www.gofundme.com/hel