Bill Rancic Defends His Wife Giuliana After Fashion Police Controversy: 'I Tried to Get Them to Release the Footage' 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Muscle Mania! Tamra Judge Wins Her First Fitness Competition
- Read the Cover Story: Steve Harvey: From Homeless to Having It All
- Search Continues for Missing Japanese Boy Abandoned in Mountains by Parents as 'Punishment'
- 4 Tricks to Getting the Prettiest Bare Nails
- The Bachelorette Recap: JoJo Fletcher Gets Her First One-on-One – and We Officially Have This Season's Villain
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- May 26, 2003
- Vol. 59
- No. 20
A Beloved Coach Battles Back from a Paralyzing Crash
Only through sheer force of will. On Dec. 26, Kearney was on Interstate 10 outside Jacksonville, Fla., en route to Disney World, when she was involved in a rollover accident. At the wheel was her housemate Michelle Freeman, 34, a 1996 Olympic bronze medalist in the 400-meter relay; with them in the SUV were Freeman's mother, Muriel Wallace, 63; University of Texas academic counselor Ilrey Sparks, 40; and Sparks's 2-year-old daughter Imani. Sparks and Wallace died, while Freeman and the child suffered minor injuries. Kearney, without a seatbelt in the back seat, was thrown to the road.
"This lady was there with the gentlest voice," she recalls. "She told me everything would be all right." In fact the passerby was not so sure. "I thought she was dead," says Trish Meehan, 32, a sales rep. "Then I felt a faint pulse. 'Stay with us,' I said."
Kearney had suffered two fractured vertebrae and a herniated disc, requiring three operations. She spent six weeks at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital in Austin before taking her first halting steps, tightly grasping two parallel bars. The next 18 months are crucial, says her physician Dr. Joe Volpe, but she has a good chance of recovering fully. And even if she ends up walking with braces, he adds, "her limitations will be whatever she sets for herself."
That would mean none at all, as her athletes attest. "Just being around Bev Kearney, from how much energy she puts into coaching and into you as a person, you can't help but want to achieve better things," says Carlette Guidry, 35, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 4 x 100 relay.
Kearney has vaulted obstacles from the start. Her late mother, Bertha, was a sometimes abusive alcoholic who had five children by four men when she wed Air Force Sgt. Beverly Kearney, now 69; two years later Bev was born. "Sunday through Thursday my mother was the most loving, giving person," she says. "But on Fridays and Saturdays, I don't know who that wild woman was who showed up drunk, cursing and fighting."
Kearney—who doesn't drink, smoke or swear—moved often with her family, finally settling in Tampa, where she became a high school basketball and track star. She won a scholarship to Alabama's Auburn University and was eventually named the school's top female athlete. After graduating with a degree in social work, she did coaching stints in Indiana, Tennessee and Florida before coming to Texas in 1993.
To many athletes, Kearney has been more than a coach. "She's my guardian angel, my best friend, sister and mother," says senior Moushaumi Robinson, 22, an Ail-American in the 200 and 400 meters. But she's also a taskmaster: "Tash, remember, stay to the inside!" she called from her wheelchair at the Texas Relays. "Moushaumi, watch that foot! Open it up, K.D.!"
Kearney has set typically ambitious goals for herself: to walk unaided by August and to jog by next summer. Meanwhile, she undergoes physical therapy and grapples with the pain. "It shoots down my legs like an electric shock," she says. "Occasionally I'll cry from frustration—but just for a minute, then I'm back. I'm going to be all right."
Gabrielle Cosgriff and Shermakaye Bass in Austin
- Gabrielle Cosgriff,
- Shermakaye Bass.
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!