During Qualifying for the Season 2 opener in NEOM, Christine GZ suffered injuries from a serious crash on her debut for Veloce Racing.
Three months on from fracturing her foot and breaking several ligaments, the Italian opens up in an enlightening interview with Veloce. GZ details the aftermath of the dramatic incident and reveals how a neuro coach has helped her through the mental impact as she readies to make her racing comeback.
Looking back to the Desert X Prix in NEOM, how were you feeling at your first race with a new team?
Christine GZ, Veloce Racing: “When I started the day off, I think I was jumping around as usual. My only thought was I wanted to get in the car and do my best. I felt ready that weekend, everything was great!
“I wasn’t really on the edge. I made a few small mistakes that set me back a little but the guys on the radio said we were fastest on track. Then I remember going down the dune and trying to keep inside as much as possible. There were already a lot of ruts and I don’t really know what happened because at the end of the day, I feel like it wasn’t really a mistake, it just happened.”
What thoughts were going through your head immediately after the accident?
GZ: “My hands were back on the steering wheel, my foot was down, I was rolling, and I was like come on! Just go back on four wheels and we’re going to finish this. Then, suddenly, I was upside down and trying to get out. I realised I couldn’t because my foot was stuck.
“The guys were super quick taking me out of the car and back to the paddock, but as soon as they tried to put me on the floor, my foot felt dead. I realised something had gone wrong.”
When you knew you were injured and would need medical treatment, how did that affect you?
GZ: “It was all so serious. I was like I’m fine, it’s just my foot. But they wouldn’t let me do anything, so we were just waiting in the hospital. I kept telling them that I have a race in an hour, so I have to get out as soon as possible. But the doctors said no, it’s not possible.
“The doctor said that the foot was fractured on the metatarsian and two ligaments were broken. He was telling me that normal people take about four months to recover. I was thinking normal people, what does that mean? I can do it in one month for sure. Then the physiotherapist said that maybe in two months it would be fixed.”
How did this setback impact you and your mentality towards racing?
GZ: “Mentally it impacted me in various ways. I passed from everything is going to be alright, to when I had surgery and I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck and I thought okay, this might be an actual problem.
“You go on Instagram, and you see everyone training and racing and then, you’re just there stuck in your bed. You can’t even get glasses of water.”
How did you manage to keep positive during this recovery period?
GZ: “I don’t think I ever let the bad, the not getting there, take over me. I was always like I know that I’m going to get there, even though I’m not right now, I will.
“When the race was moved, I had more time to recover but the objective was the same. I never told my physio that my race was postponed so that they’d still let me train so much. Every day except Sundays, because they don’t let me in. I was doing between five and six hours of rehab.”
What treatment did you receive in your recovery, especially around your mental health?
GZ: “I started having dreams about the accident happening over and over again. I talk about these things with our mental coach, and he helps me to understand what’s going on and how we can take all this to make it positive.
“My friends were impressed that I was actually talking about it. Normally I would be like oh everything is fine, which I think is what most athletes do. We hide the fact that we are not feeling good.”
So, as part of your rehabilitation, you’ve been receiving neuro training. What exactly does that entail?
GZ: “I have been working on that since last year and I think I feel that has been a great improvement for me. In neuro, he works with your fatigue, nerves, stress, reaction and all this together, he tries to bring it to another level.
“Normally during my daily life, because it’s so busy with training and racing and so on, he’s never gone too hard on me. You can’t start your day and feel already dead before going to training. What we’ve done now that I’m at home is to train at our maximum level so that you see the consequences of how you can train at that high performance and experience how that affects the rest of the day.”
Breaking the stigmatism around mental health, would you recommend neuro training to other athletes?
GZ: “Every athlete should have a mental trainer. People get a little bit scared when you say psychologist, but all this time has given me a chance to think and see how to get better in a different way.
“We kind of drive away from this mental health story because we’re drivers and athletes, we are strong and put in 150% for everything we do. I think we have to see it in a different way.
“It’s crazy because I thought okay, this is my limit. Then when I do neuro and I think that I can’t go over this and can’t do more, I see that my limit is actually so much higher.”
It sounds like, despite the hardships you’ve been through, you’re going to come back stronger than ever before.
GZ: My head right now is 100%. I’m ready to get back in the car. Maybe in another situation I wouldn’t be like that. But with all this help, I’m on it! I’m ready to get back and smash it in Sardinia.
Head to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k1QN_gDB7M to watch the full interview.
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