Nightly News   |  February 15, 2010

Kevin Pearce:  From the Archives

February 15, 2010 – From the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, NBC’s Brian Williams and Kevin Tibbles  on Kevin Pearce, who was one of America’s brightest prospects in the snowboard half pipe before a devastating injury.    

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> treatment options and support.

>>> back now from vancouver, where competition in one of the most daring and exciting sports in these games, the snowboard half pipe gets underway on wednesday. one of america's brightest olympic prospects was kevin pierce, a young snowboarder from vermont. a devastating injury during training left him fighting for his life. now in an exclusive interview, his family is talking about it all for the first time. here with that, kevin tibbles.

>> reporter: artistry and athletics meant kevin pierce was a favorite to make the high flying u.s. team . he's one of the few boarders to actually pete shawn white . he's done it twice.

>> you see all these athletes that get so big and get all this attention. i think the attention goes to their head.

>> reporter: his values come from his father. kevin has struggled with learning disabilities .

>> what have you been doing all morning.

>> reporter: his older brother david has down's syndrome. his brother is a trailblazer too.

>> i look over to my left and see dave, he has this huge pile of medals, he's already been to the special olympics and done that.

>> reporter: the brothers have a special relationship .

>> i think kevin has learned a lot about patience from david , because everything for david takes longer, and the challenges have been immense for him.

>> reporter: four brothers who grew up living for snow. at just eight years old, kevin confronted jake burton .

>> i asked him if they would make me a kid's board because there was no such thing at the time. a couple weeks later he came back with this.

>> reporter: that board still hangs on his bedroom wall. but to chase that dream, risk. just last fall kevin 's mother spoke of her anxiety watching her youngest son compete.

>> it is such a high risk thing that he's doing all the time. and the opportunity for extreme injury is amazing.

>> reporter: then a mother's worst fears realized, on new year's eve while training on a 22-foot half pipe in park city , utah, pierce missed a difficult maneuver, slamming his head into the icy wall. and even though he was wearing a helmet, was left near death. since then his family has constantly been at his side as kevin has slowly begun to heal.

>> the brain needs to mend itself. in order to do that, it needs to be quiet. often we sit with him and hold his hand for hours and don't talk to him.

>> reporter: kevin 's spirit has been strong.

>> there's never been a time where he's complained or been upset with where he is or what's happened.

>> you can see it, feel it in him he's working his way through it. he's going to get there.

>> reporter: the sounds of last summer seem a long time ago, back when kevin and his brothers practiced their moves. tomorrow there will be a special reunion, for the first time since his accident, kevin 's brother david will be at his bedside to cheer him on. kevin tibbles, nbc news, nor norwich, vermont.

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