A slipped disc is not enough to stop Katie O'Neill.

The Rotorua wonder kid underwent spinal fusion surgery last year after losing feeling in her leg and foot.

The 23-year-old rider was told to wait six months before getting back into racing, a date O'Neill has anxiously been waiting for.

"It was frightening. I wasn't sure how I would go on the bike again but everyone around me was really positive."


The former New Zealand U23 cross country champion made a great return to competition last weekend, placing second in the Xterra 26km mountainbike race.

"I was actually surprised I was able to fit in all my training in and around the race. I thought I might not be able to train the following day but my body was okay."

O'Neill said she was still being careful but had her eyes set on a trip to Germany later this year to race alongside her NZXC Racing teammates.

"I don't want to go all out and find myself back at square one ... but I'm in a lot less pain than I use to be.

"My next race should be the Ohope Ordeal, not this weekend but next, and then I am off to Europe in May.

"Basically I want to get back up there with the top 30 elite riders."

She said she did not considered herself back to full form or health but simply wanted to start working her way towards improved form and the Commonwealth Games next year.

The talented rider said she was starting to get more hours training on the bike as well.

"It is not quite the same load I use to do. I'm training 16 hours a week, which is heaps though, and I'm stoked with that."

O'Neill struggled with a back problem since she was a teenager, which finally led to a disc slipping and compressing a major nerve last year.

O'Neill, a graduate at Waiariki Institute of Technology, has been able to spend some of her spare time, while off the bike, working towards an accountancy degree.

She also works part time at Multi-Day Adventures, doing their books.

O'Neill is part of the relatively new NZXC Racing team, who look to develop top-class New Zealand cross country athletes.

NZXC Racing is made up of five riders and holds strong ties to Waiariki Academy of Sport.