By Darci Miller | March 04, 2016, 10:52 a.m. (ET)


A lot can happen in two years.

In August of 2014, Paige Railey was in a serious bicycling accident that left her with a fractured spine, several lost teeth and dislocated knuckles. In August of 2016, Railey will be competing at the Rio Olympic Games.

A 2012 Olympian in Laser Radial, Railey qualified for her second Olympic team by virtue of her status as the top U.S. boat in her class. Quota spots on the U.S. Olympic Team are filled based on results from two major international events for each class. Railey finished seventh at the first event, the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January, to take a 10-point lead over Erika Reineke. At the Laser Radial Europeans, Railey finished 16th overall, and Reineke’s 43rd-place finish was not enough to overtake her.

Railey is one of the most accomplished Laser Radial sailors in the country. She’s been a force to be reckoned with on the international scene since 2005 when she won the Laser Radial World Championship and was named US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year the following year. In her first Olympic appearance in 2012 she finished eighth and earned the award for 2011-12 US Sailing Olympic Athlete of the Year, going on to win bronze at the 2013 Laser Radial World Championships.

While training during the summer of 2014, Railey’s competitive career was nearly ended by an accident that fractured her spine and kept her out of the water for four months.

“It became something much more than ever worrying about whether or not I would be able to sail again. I was wondering if Paige was ever going to be Paige again,” Railey told TeamUSA.org. “I did not know if I would ever be healthy again. I went a long time without being able to hold a coffee cup. If I cannot hold a coffee cup, there were times that I questioned whether or not I would be able to navigate a boat.”

But she fought back to full health and regained her prior form, winning gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and finishing fourth at the 2015 Rio Olympic Test Event.

Railey becomes the seventh sailor on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. She joins Paris Henken and Helena Scutt (49erFX), Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris (49er), and Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee (Nacra 17). The next U.S. sailor will qualify for the Olympic team at the Finn Europeans on March 5-12. Railey’s brother Zach, a two-time Olympian and 2008 silver medalist, leads the field heading into the event.