Kieran Behan

Kieran Behan

One of the first things you learn in gymnastics is how to fall. Falling the right way  helps reduce injuries and makes it easier to get up faster.  

Accidents are unavoidable, however, no matter how well you have learned this crucial lesson. Such is the case with the Irish gymnast, Kieran Behan. 

However, Behan showed through his life that knowing how to fall is more than something you must commit to muscle memory. It’s a mindset, and once it’s been adapted, nothing can block your road to success. 


Early Life 

Behan was born on April 19th, 1989. By age eight, he had already found his passion for gymnastics. He was enthralled by the flips, handstands, bars, and beams. 

Roadblocks came just as quick as Behan’s passion. At age 10, Behan discovered a tumor on his left thigh. Even though the tumor was benign, it needed to be removed. 

Complications during the operation caused severe nerve damage in Behan’s leg. Even gentle contact with his left leg gave Behan immense pain. Behan, a little boy who loved gymnastics and being an ordinary kid, was confined to a wheelchair. 

The doctors told Behan that he would never walk again. Behan didn’t believe them. 

Behan pushed himself. First in the wheelchair, then in walkers and with walking sticks. Fifteen months later, he shed all crutches and headed back to the gym to pursue his dream. 

In eight months, disaster struck again. During one practice, he fell from the high bars. He sustained serious damage to his brain and inner ear. As a result, he had frequent blackouts and missed a year of school. 

Few people have been told twice in their life (for two separate injuries) that they would never walk again.  

Still, fewer have beaten the odds twice. “Miracle boy” (as Behan was dubbed by the doctors) worked tirelessly on his physical therapy for three years. His dedication paid off: he was finally able to get back to gymnastics. 


Olympic Dreams 

Behan dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast. This is tough for anyone, but especially for someone who spent more time in rehab than training as a youth. But after so much pain and heartache, there was no way Behan was going to stop doing what he loved most. 

His path was riddled with branches and rocks. He broke several bones in his teenage years. In 2009, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Then in 2010, at the European championships, he tore the same ligament in his other knee.  

After nearly ten years, Behan’s hard work finally began to pay off in 2011. He won three world cup medals and several other titles and medals in the European Championships. Despite all his injuries, he excelled in floor exercises to finish fourth in floor finals at the Olympic test event in 2021. This performance qualified him for the 2012 London Olympics., making him only the second gymnast to represent Ireland in the Olympics. 

Behan also participated in the 2016 Olympics. It didn’t matter to him that he finished 38th. Despite setbacks and facing debilitating injuries, Behan competed on the preeminent world stage. 



Now Behan dreams his story will encourage people to push forward to follow their dreams. “I want them to be inspired by it”, says Behan, “Everyone goes through their own difficulties and their own obstacles in their everyday life… everyone has little things that they need to overcome.” 

Since retiring from competing, Behan has spread his love for gymnastics through coaching. Behan worked for The Tolworth Gymnastics Club (where he was trained). In 2019, when he accepted a position as the Junior National Coach of Austria. 


The Take Home 

Behan certainly didn’t have the famous Irish good luck. But it didn’t matter. He had everything he needed: passion, patience, and a determination to take one day at a time, no matter how hard. 

At the end of the day, the only limits you have are the ones you set on yourself. Behan set no limitations on what he believed he could do, allowing him to accomplish whatever he wanted. 


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 By: Emeline Haroldsen 


Zedd, Colorado. “Doctors Claimed He Would Never Walk Again, and Yet He Made it to the Olympics”. Playjunkie. 2015. 

“Underdog Story of the Day”. The Underdog Brand. 2020. 

Macur, Juliet. “Once Told He’d Never Walk Again, Irish Gymnast is Now Olympian”. New York Times. 2012. 

“Behan Takes Fourth in London Test Event”. RTE. 2012. 

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