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Karina Hollekim: The Exhilaration of Fear

Doing your personal best is an understatement for this high-stakes achiever.

Norwegian athlete Karina Hollekim is an accomplished BASE jumper and free skier. She is no stranger to the intoxicating adrenaline rush that comes from free-falling. She became the first woman to successfully complete a ski-BASE jump.

BASE is an acronym for the types of perch jumpers use to launch into their jumps: building, antenna, span, and earth. Since its inception in 1981, there have been over 300 people who died attempting a BASE jump. Why Hollekim was attracted to this extreme sport that’s 43 times more dangerous than skydiving from a plane, is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it was because she had defied death before or maybe she wanted to amp up the fear factor for its adrenaline rush, maybe both. Whatever the case, she has succeeded in garnering our admiration and landing safely into the history books.

Karina Hollekim BASE jumping with friend in Mali

Karina Hollekim BASE jumping with friend in Mali

A Fateful Day

She was at the top of her game. In 2006, as she hurtled through the air at 60miles per hour, she had an epiphany. She realized that one moment can change everything. The jump was routine from a plane with friends. Descending over Lake Geneva in Switzerland, she initially felt peace and clarity that comes from the sport. Free-falling was the routine for her, she knew the exact moment to release her parachute to slow her fall and allow her to gently touch the ground uninjured.

But that day was different, the chute malfunctioned, and the sense of fear that she usually relished in transformed to terror. She quickly realized that she would hit a boulder at full speed.At that moment, she knew she was going to die, similarly to others before her.

In her TEDx Talk speech, she reveals her last thoughts at that moment, “Fix the problem. You have to fix the problem. You can do this. Brace for impact.” Then all went black.

A Different Reality

Hollekim lived to tell her story. After the 10,000-foot plummet, she woke up in the hospital two days later suffering from two broken knees, four fractures in her left femur, and 21 open fractures in her right leg. Her doctors told her that she would never walk again.

Then, she experienced a new kind of fear, a fear of immobility that would leave most people hopeless, defeated, and mentally and physically paralyzed. But then again, Hollekim is not average. She wouldn’t submit to that fate, nor would her family let her. Her father insisted, “no one can predict the future,” so instead, she picked herself up from rock bottom and viewed her road to recovery as another obstacle to overcome. Staying positive helped.

Replaying the moments before the crash in her head, she knew that hitting the boulder was a blessing in disguise. Ground impact would most certainly come with neck and back injuries that would have left her completely paralyzed.  But life in a wheelchair just wasn’t the end game for her.

According to Hollekim “It was decision time. Either I could get used to a wheelchair and lead an ordinary life or I could try to heal myself. I decided to put my all into trying to get back what was lost.”

A Painful Journey

Hollekim spent four months at the hospital and endured 20 surgeries needed to help put her body and life back together. Instead of lying down and letting fate steamroll her into a life in a wheelchair, she braced herself for countless hours of physical therapy. She set her mind to not only walk again, but todo what she loved most: ski and skydive.

Her journey wasn’t easy. Physical therapy was extremely grueling due to the severity of her injuries. Bravely, she endured hours in gritty pain and discomfort, staying focused on becoming whole again.

Thanks to perseverance, intense physical therapy, and a mind-strengthening technique called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), she is fully mobile. It was a battle hard won. It took six months to put socks on her own feet, three years to walk again, four years before she could ski again, and six years to enjoy it. In her fifth year, she was on a mountain top in Norway and skied down the slope. She felt the exhilaration, it had returned, she was back. She said at TEDx, “The joy of making it back has made me feel like a complete person again.”

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Hollekim now shares her story as a motivational speaker, author, and public figure dedicated to helping people reach their goals. Listeners are urged to not take defeat lying down. She says, “Just keep getting up every time life knocks you down.  When you recover and persist the way I have, just surviving is an achievement.”

Her TEDx speech is moving and poignant, captivating and encouraging the audience. Coaching both professional athletes and high-powered executives, she incorporates NLP as a tool in her training arsenal. NLP addresses the dynamics between the mind and language and how they affect our body and behavior. She is sought after for her inspiring story of overcoming life challenges and pushing to overcome them, always staying focused, and finally succeeding.

Her story was portrayed in the award-winning movie 20 Seconds of Joy and published in her autobiography, The Wonderful Feeling of Fear. In a world filled with uncertainty, one thing is clear. Karina Hollekim will succeed no matter what life dishes out for her.

We encourage you to learn more about this wonder woman at www.karinahollekim.com and take a moment to peek into her life in the video below, it will leave you awe-struck.