The legendary three-time Olympian, former triathlon World Champion and Ironman World Record holder, Tim Don, can only be described as the embodiment of pure fortitude, strength and willpower, after surviving a near-fatal road accident that was feared to bring a sudden end to his esteemed career just days before heading to the Ironman World Championships in October last year.
For the first time since his catastrophic setback, the Swiss sportswear company, On, together with Emmy award-winning director, Andrew Hinton, are revealing Tim’s remarkable story in a compelling short form documentary that chronicles his courageous comeback journey along the road to recovery. The highly anticipated and inspirational film, entitled “The Man with the Halo,” has been newly released at www.ManwiththeHalo.com. This release also commemorates the 1-year Anniversary of Tim’s world record-breaking performance during the 2017 Ironman South American Championships in Florianopolis, Brazil.
In the beginning of 2018, following an excruciating three-month period of mental and physical recovery resulting from a severely broken neck, doctors ordered the removal of Tim’s medical halo – the circular metallic support structure fixed directly into his skull. This marked the start of an intense chapter of rehabilitation, fueled by a fierce determination to rebuild himself as the world’s preeminent Ironman. Tim set his sights on his first comeback race – competing at this year’s Boston Marathon in April. Almost six months to the day after the accident, Tim remarkably finished in 2 hours and 49 minutes, just five minutes more than the marathon leg of his record-setting race at the 2017 Ironman South American Championships in Brazil.
“At On, we take pride in sponsoring not just athletes, but their human spirit,” says Olivier Bernhard, co-founder of the Swiss sportswear company. “Tim’s unwavering optimism in the face of adversity is a natural extension of our brand values. Once his pursuit of the Ironman World Championship slipped away following the crash in 2017, we wanted to create an alternative platform of recognition for Tim. We put together a world-class production team to chronicle his recovery, and reached out to our network to generate as much groundswell as possible around his comeback race at the Boston Marathon. Our short form documentary will arguably generate an equally momentous spotlight to suffice any World Championship title. We are delighted to commemorate the 1-year Anniversary of Tim’s world record-breaking performance with a compelling story of undisputable heroism.”
On, instead of walking away following Tim’s injury, renewed his contract for another three years soon after the accident, demonstrating the confidence installed in their star athlete to once again regain pole position.
On May 28th, 2017, at the age of 39 years old, Tim Don became the fastest Ironman triathlete of all time after breaking the World Record (previously set by Lionel Sanders) by four minutes, at a time of 7:40:23, during the Ironman South American Championships in Brazil. Tim was in the best shape of his life and continued to train relentlessly for October’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, for which he was considered a favorite. While cycling during his final training preparations days before the event, Tim collided with a vehicle and broke a vertebra in his neck, forcing him to make an arduous decision about his future and the best method for long-term recovery. Due to the option of neck surgery giving extreme limitations to his eventual range of motion, Tim decided to wear a halo – the most torturous alternative – but one that would ensure complete recovery, enabling him to return to his 20-year career competing with the best in the world.
“After watching such a well produced documentary with my wife and reliving the ordeal we all went through, it’s evident how much stronger and resilient these grueling experiences make you,” says Tim. “Looking back on the last six months has made me realize that my injury was not just a career setback but a serious learning experience about the appreciation one can have towards such a nurturing and dedicated support structure during difficult times. I have been very fortunate and realize how the severity of my injury was shared between everyone around me and how we all carried an equal burden at one point or another. It was awesome to be back in the race environment at Boston, pinning the number on and being in the start corral with everyone. It’s what I worked so hard for over the last six months.”
Tim suffered for nearly four agonizing months at his home in Boulder, Colorado – not being able to shave, shower or dress himself. He became entirely dependent on his wife Kelly, who would often have to clean around the metal of the halo to prevent infection and reduce the swelling where the pins were screwed into his forehead. Tim was on a heavy dose of prescription painkillers that would often add to the problem with frequent vomiting. For three weeks he was upright in a chair in a corner of his living room, unable to sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time. The entire right side of his body became black from bruising and swelling with his ankles becoming swollen despite his compression socks.
As Tim slowly came off the painkillers, he was determined to move beyond the confines of his metal halo and fight for a competitive comeback. He called upon his physiotherapist, John Dennis, who had worked with Tim for over a decade during his competitive career. John was among the first to fly out from the UK to Colorado to supervise the rehabilitation program Tim was eager to start while still wearing the halo. With his upper body strength restricted by the device, John worked with Tim to regain mobility, strength and stability in his lower body. As the exercises became more intense, the screws in Tim’s halo would often come loose and have to be tightened. Eventually the halo was replaced with a large collar allowing for more variation during the workouts over time. Tim was focused and positive throughout the recovery process, which was helped by having goals such as the Boston Marathon and ultimately, a return to the World Championships in Kona.
On April 16th, six months after he was almost crippled for life, Tim took to the 2018 Boston Marathon. Despite the driving rain and temperatures close to freezing, Tim finished in under 2 hours and 50 minutes. A week before the marathon in April, Tim was up to 20 hours of training, compared to his typical 30 hours prior to the injury, although, the race helped give him closure on a wound that nearly derailed his career indefinitely. The finish line in Boston marks the beginning of Tim’s long road to recovery. He plans to compete at the Ironman Triathlon European Championship in Hamburg on July 29th, before making a grand entrance as a returning frontrunner in October at the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
The new documentary entitled “The Man with the Halo,” chronicling Tim Don’s road to recovery, is produced by On, together with Emmy award-winning director, Andrew Hinton. The worldwide release marks the 1-year Anniversary of Tim Don’s world record-breaking performance during the Ironman South American Championships in Brazil. The brand new documentary has been released to watch on www.ManwiththeHalo.com.