ELTJE MALZBENDER'S STORY
For an athlete that had been left for dead on the side of the road after a hit and run, to coming back from a coma that was classified as the lowest survivable outcome, Eltje lives with a severe brain injury yet views the world and its challenges more profoundly than most.
This wonderful woman, who shows us everyday that passion has no limits, is in very strong contention to be a gold medalist at Tokyo Paralympic games in 2020... and she needs your help.
Read Eltjes' time line below, or watch a video of Eltje in 2017.
'If you have the capacity to support Eltje in kind by way of purchasing a part of her Olympic bike, or a donation please click the link below.' - Team Eltje
TIME LINE OF ELTJE MALZBENDER
Eltje Malzbender was recently been selected for the Para-cycling Road World Championships in Italy. She has recently gained her NZ Citizenship after living and working in NZ for over 18yrs. She worked for the Waikato DHB as physiotherapist at the Te Kuiti and Taumarunui hospitals for 15yrs, and then in private physio practice serving Te Awamutu and Waikeria prison. She has been passionate about her job, trying to use her skills to make a difference to peoples’ lives, and about cycling. She used every spare minute out on her bike, enjoying being out there, enjoying New Zealand fresh air and countryside.
She competed in road racing for the Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club for over 10yrs; Riding club races, the Waikato-BoP championships, National championships, and NZ Masters Games. Eltje took part in many major events including the Wellington to Auckland ride (twice), K2, 200km round the Coromandel, the Gentle Annie (Taihape to Hastings) and she even rode up the Ohakune Mountain road to the Turoa skifield.
Everything came to a stop on 5 March 2016, whilst on a training ride out at 30km west of Waitomo Caves near Te Anga. She was found in the road by a motorist. On reaching the Waikato hospital by helicopter, she was at the lowest level on the coma scale from which people can recover. Probably her fitness helped the body keep running through ICU and the HDU.
After 4 weeks she was stable, and began an emergent consciousness state sent to ABI, the Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Auckland. She spent many months in emergent consciousness, deteriorated and spent a month in Auckland hospital, one half of the body experiencing constant involuntary movement, the other side apparently lifeless with no movement. After she rallied again she returned to ABI and after 6 months there, to a slow stream rehabilitation, Laura Ferguson Trust.
The severe traumatic brain injury which she suffered has produced difficulties with many aspects of mobility and life: ataxia, sudden involuntary movement of limbs, lack of balance, coordination, no proprioception. She was unable to speak and patiently re-learned it. She was left with no short term memory, double vision, and other mental and physical problems.
However, she was formerly renowned for her determination and work-ethic, which hasn’t changed. Eltje works constantly to improve her abilities for hours every day. She attends a gym several days per week, has a gym equipped at her home, and works out at Resthaven pool facility, being able to walk and jog on the underwater treadmill.
Despite doctors’ scepticism she was introduced to riding a tricycle in the velodrome in Cambridge by Michael Bland, with friends running alongside in the event that she fell over, eventually starting to ride outside, then achieving a successful ride to a Cambridge café.
Eltje’s success cycling on the tricycle has continued and after competing at the National Road Cycling Championships in 2017 and 2018, she has received encouragement from Paralympics NZ and was selected to represent NZ at the Para-cycling Road World Championships in Italy in August 2018.
Since discharge from Laura Ferguson Trust in Auckland in May 2017, Eltje moved to Cambridge as she found the town welcoming, supportive and with wide level footpaths and great facilities. She gained access to shops and cafes, and feels at home.
Eltje is now still rehabilitating on a daily basis while riding her trike round Cambridge and training for international events.
Eltje was selected on the HPSNZ Pathway to Podium programme with Paralympics NZ in 2018, and just recently has just been re-classified as a T1 and been made a 'carded level 1' at Paralymics NZ and High Performance Sport NZ. This meaning Eltje is now a strong contender for a medal at Tokyo 2020 Paralymic games. Not just any medal... Eltje is a strong contender for GOLD!
She attends camps and regional/national training and races. Eltje will also go to the World Champs in August in the Netherlands, and to the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020.
Where is the gap? Eltje needs your help toward a bike of international competition standard to achieve her medals with, a bike that will measure up to her competitors.