Broken Collarbone Does Not Stop Twigg In Her Quest -- She Not Only Wins Title At Worlds, But Reclaims World Record

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A broken collarbone couldn't break Rebecca Twigg's spirit.

A cold couldn't dampen the taste of success.

Instead, the handicaps heightened Twigg's sense of satisfaction after she won her sixth world title and set a world record in the women's individual pursuit at the 1995 World Cycling Championships Oct. 1 in Bogota, Colombia.

Twigg, 32, entered the competition as a five-time world champion in pursuit, having won titles in 1982, 1984-85, 1987 and 1993. Her world record of 3 minutes, 37.347 seconds had stood since she set it at the world championships in 1993.

Yet, Twigg came into this year's world championships with much more modest goals.

"The most important thing is to do your best," said Twigg, a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center. "Rarely is everything perfect. If you just try to do the best you can with what you've got at that moment, that's all you can ask."

Twigg made do with a collarbone pinned back in place after a training accident in Colorado Springs on Sept. 18. As if that wasn't enough of a handicap, she came down with a cold a week before her event.

"That left me thinking, `Oh well, I will try and go and make top eight at least,' " Twigg said. "Under the circumstances, I just wasn't expecting to do this well."

Early in the competition, Twigg's rivals tried to reinforce that notion. Italy's Antonella Bellutti broke Twigg's world mark, clocking a 3:36.823 in qualifying.

Five minutes later, France's Marion Clignet broke Bellutti's mark with a 3:36.227.

"I actually was afraid someone else was going to end up with the world record," Twigg said.

"I knew it was a fast track and I was thinking, `Darn, too bad this had to happen.' "

Twigg discovered early on that she was competitive, but as the times dropped, she wondered if she had a shot at winning a medal.

"I was three seconds behind in qualifying," she said. "I was thinking maybe I will only be going for a bronze medal at best. I took it one round at a time and did not expect too much of myself other than to do my best. And it worked out really well."

After winning her semifinal heat, Twigg knew she had a chance in the final.

"I felt really good," she said. "Officially, I was going for the world championship first and the world record second."

"But I knew I had something left after the semifinal ride. So at that point, I started thinking maybe I would have the opportunity to get my record back, instead of it going to someone else."

Riding against Bellutti in the final, Twigg clocked a 3:36.081 to win the gold medal and reclaim the world record.

"I felt better and better throughout the rounds," Twigg said. "But I was really surprised that I ended up going so fast."

The world title was the latest in a long list of accomplishments by Twigg during a remarkable career.

A 16-time national champion, Twigg won a silver medal in the women's road race at the 1984 Olympics. She won a bronze medal in the women's pursuit at the 1992 Olympics. In between, Twigg retired and pursued a career as a computer programmer.

"I wrote programs. Mostly business programs," Twigg said. "Not the most exciting."

But the work intrigued her enough to take classes in programing so she could work on more interesting applications.

That, indirectly, led to Twigg's arrival in Colorado Springs, where she is in training for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

"It (programming) is hard," Twigg said. "Basically, as an athlete, you work your own hours. It's very physical type of work.

"Programming is very stationary. You don't get to work your own hours. You usually work more than 40 hours a week. It's very different. But they're both challenging."

Twigg lived in Colorado Springs in 1982 and remembered how much she liked Colorado.

"I like the weather. The training center has good access to facilities. It's a good place to train," she said.

"And then, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs has a graduate program in computer science. Everything seemed to click."

Everything did click, until she felt the pop on Sept. 18 when she collided with Janie Eickhoff and cycling coach Craig Griffin during practice at the 7-Eleven Velodrome.

"I don't know if I put my hand out or what," Twigg said. "But I knew something bad had happened pretty soon because it (her shoulder) was kind of numb. That's usually not a good sign."

The normal recovery time for a broken collarbone is six to eight weeks, but Twigg had only 11 days to get well before her event at the world championships.

So local surgeon David Weinstein pinned Twigg's broken bone together the same evening during an operation at St. Francis Hospital.

"They said the best chance to compete was to get a plate," Twigg said.

Weinstein also discovered several bone chips, including one that was close to some arteries.

He inserted seven screws and removed the chips.

"It could have caused some problems, like internal bleeding," Twigg said. "I'm really glad I had the operation."

She trained on a stationary bicycle until the day before her competition, when she practiced on the track in Bogota for the first time.

Despite the pain, despite the nagging symptoms of a cold, Twigg refused to give up.

"I see so many people who really beat themselves up mentally," she said.

"They think, `My stomach's hurting.' Well, OK, your stomach's hurting. You still have to do your best."