Norwegian bicyclist’s dream ends in crash

Deaf-blind cyclist Harald Vik has crossed 50 countries, but South Dakota will have to wait

Photo: Leslee Lane Hoyum Harald Vik and guide/interpreter Ivar Wigaard demonstrate tandem bike riding technique for guests at a reception in Harald Vik’s honor at the home of Marit and Orlyn Kringstad, Bloomington, Minn.

Photo: Leslee Lane Hoyum
Harald Vik and guide/interpreter Ivar Wigaard demonstrate tandem bike riding technique for guests at a reception in Harald Vik’s honor at the home of Marit and Orlyn Kringstad, Bloomington, Minn.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

Norwegian bicyclist Harald Vik of Drammen arrived Aug.18 in Minneapolis all smiles as he looked forward to his bicycle trek from Brookings, S.D. to Lincoln, Neb., where he has family. But Vik is no ordinary biker; he is 71 years old and deaf-blind.

On Aug. 20, Vik and his three traveling companions, who not only interpret for him but also guide, drove to Brookings, S.D., where Robb Rasmussen, a long-time Ski for Light supporter and owner of Sioux River Bicycles and Fitness, outfitted the team with bicycles. The next day they were off on their journey to Lincoln.

Vik enjoys experiencing his surroundings through his sense of smell and touch. He usually knows what type of farm or animal he is approaching, but some things he cannot detect, such as corn. “Corn has no smell,” said Vik. “I rely on my guides to describe our surroundings during our frequent breaks so I, too, can enjoy the scenery.”

Photo: Robert Skarsbakk  Leslee Lane Hoyum and Harald Vik renew their friendship from Ski for Light and the Ridderrenn, which are among the world’s largest cross-country skiing events with blind and mobility-impaired individuals.

Photo: Robert Skarsbakk
Leslee Lane Hoyum and Harald Vik renew their friendship from Ski for Light and the Ridderrenn, which are among the world’s largest cross-country skiing events with blind and mobility-impaired individuals.

Friday’s journey was expected to be an easy 70-mile jaunt from Sioux Falls to Mitchell, So. Dak., home of the renowned Corn Palace. It wasn’t to be. Three-and-a-half miles from their hotel, Vik and his guide were hit by a 70-year-old man driving a Jeep and were rushed to Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls.

Vik suffered fractures of the right femur neck, left ankle and several ribs. A femoral neck fracture occurs just below the ball of the hip joint disconnecting it from the rest of the thigh bone (the femur). His guide, Torben Løkås had only minor injuries; Vik underwent surgery. It is best to hear about Harald’s experience in his on words:

“I actually don’t remember the collision. I awakened in great pain. I was told that I had a fracture in my right femur neck, and had fractured several ribs as well as my left ankle. The surgeon at Sanford told me that my operation went very well, but there is a possibility that in a few days I may have to have a second operation on my ankle.

“I am in very good humor, but a bit groggy, since they have given me some medication for the pain. It’s a bit too early to say when I can travel home to Norway, but the doctor says it will be several weeks.

“I believe things could be much worse, but I am not worried about today and look forward to becoming active again.”

There is no question that Harald Vik is a remarkable man with great Viking spirit.

Vik was born deaf. He began losing his sight at age 10 and became totally blind in 1985 due to a condition called Usher Syndrome, which narrows the peripheral vision and causes night blindness. “I could have just sat back and allowed myself to be passive and isolated in a world of darkness and silence,” said Vik. “I chose sports as my way out. I wanted people to realize that even with a handicap like mine, it’s possible to live a great life.” Since then, Vik has lived life to the fullest. He has run the New York Marathon 20 times, crossed 50 countries on a tandem bike and enjoyed cross-country skiing. He is greatly admired at the U.S. Ski for Light International program and the Norwegian Ridderrenn, two of the world’s largest cross-county ski events with blind and mobility-impaired individuals.

At age 14 Vik met Helen Keller, America’s most famous deaf-blind activist, who greatly influenced his life. He also is a role model for his fellow countrymen, which brought him recognition from His Majesty King Harald V of Norway who decorated him for his efforts to promote active lifestyles among disabled and non-disabled Norwegians alike. Vik also received a blessing and rosary from Pope John Paul II after he bicycled from Oslo to Rome.

Vik can be reached through Facebook. So, “friend” him and follow this remarkable man and his recovery at www.facebook.com/harald.vik.3?fref=ts.

Update, Sept. 1: Harald Vik is doing remarkably well and doctors are allowing him to leave for Norway in a few days where he will continue with rigorous physical therapy. Harald is upbeat and hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Furthermore, he plans to participate in the New York Marathon in November, even if he has to use a wheelchair, and expects to attend Ski For Light’s 40th anniversary in Colorado in February 2015. He harbors no ill will against the man who hit his bicycle.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 5, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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