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Crippled Cheerleader Fights Back, Cheers Six Months Later

December 30, 1986 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Kathleen Marie Beumel thought her life was over when a cheerleading accident at the University of Hawaii left her a quadriplegic more than two years ago.

But six months after the accident, Ms. Beumel was leading cheers again, and she attributes her recovery to the physical conditioning she received as a cheerleader and championship high school runner.

″I had a lot of faith in the Lord and a real positive attitude and I worked really hard to come back,″ she said Monday as the high school cheerleading squad she now coaches competed in a national competition here.

Ms. Beumel, an Owensboro, Ky., native, said she was atop the shoulders of two cheerleaders, with a third atop her, when she landed wrong during dismount of a stunt and broke her neck.

″As accidents happen, I fell and landed on my head instead of my feet. Something just went wrong. I still don’t know what,″ she said. ″I told my coach I would be back.″

At 24, there is little evidence that she ever was a quadriplegic. Although doctors told she would never walk again and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life after the July 29, 1984, injury, she proved them wrong.

Ms. Beumel, who always maintained a rigorous physical regimen, said she extended her physical therapy sessions and asked relatives and friends to move her immobile limbs every day to keep them from atrophying.

″I’m about 65 or 70 percent back. I have difficulty doing some things. I have a slight limp, a little bit of difficulty riding a bicycle and a certain fatigue factor,″ Ms. Beumel said. ″But I’ll be 100 percent someday.″

She is assistant coach for Honolulu’s McKinley High School cheerleading squad that competed in the International Open Cheerleading Championships, which ended Tuesday.

Ms. Beumel insists cheerleading has not grown too dangerous but added that high schools and colleges need to recognize cheerleading as a sport with professional instructors and funding afforded football and basketball.

″Cheerleading isn’t recognized as a sport because principals and sponsors don’t know what is involved,″ Ms. Beumel said. ″Cheerleading has grown into these types of stunts because cheerleading has been made a sport. In order to compete, they come up with creative ideas to show how good they really are.″

On Monday night, Ms. Beumel addressed the 3,000 junior high and high school students from 38 states who participated in the competition.

″My message is work hard for whatever you want,″ she said. ″I wanted to get well. I worked hard for it.″