Breakfast with Bob: How Carb-Loading Saved Sebastien Bellin’s Life

Ahead of this weekend's Ironman World Championship, former pro basketball player Sebastien Bellin shares how he survived a suicide bombing in Brussels and his recovery journey to becoming a triathlete.

Photo: Bob Babbitt

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Sebastien Bellin is 6’9″ tall and played professional basketball in Europe for 15 seasons. his Belgian team was the league champion in 2007 and a two-time Belgian Cup Champion. After he retired from basketball he helped launch a start-up with two friends in 2012. “We ended up selling the company in 2015,” Bellin remembers, “but I signed on with the new company for two more years.”

On the evening of March 21, 2016, he went to dinner with some friends in Brussels. The next day he was supposed to fly to New York city. He ordered Pasta Carbonara and it was spectacular. “When the waiter came by to check on us, he asked me if I enjoyed my meal,” remembers Bellin. “I told him the quality was great, but the quantity was a tad lacking for someone my size. He went back to the kitchen and returned with two more portions, and I devoured those as well.”

The next morning, while waiting for his flight, all hell broke loose when suicide bombers attacked the Brussels Airport.

Bellin’s wife Sarah, who was at their home in Battle Creek, Michigan with their two daughters at the time, first heard about the bombings when friends reached out to her offering their support after seeing images of Bellin lying in a pool of his own blood there at the airport. When she opened her computer, the first photo she saw was the one of Sebastien looking totally helpless.

Since people were worried about another attack, everyone was running past this very large person lying on the ground who looked like both legs had been detached from his body. “They were trying to save themselves,” he recalls. “I kept yelling at people to not leave me behind, that would be on their conscience if I died. Finally, someone helped me onto a luggage cart and pushed me to the front of the airport.”

The injured were given green tags if they had minor injuries, yellow tags for those with not quite life-threatening injuries, red tags for those who needed to be transported immediately and black tags for victims who were dead or who were though too far gone to save.

“I could feel my blood pressure dropping and I was starting to sweat heavily,” Bellin says. “If I had passed out, my guess is that I would have ended up with a black tag since my body was in such bad shape. Instead, I received a red tag and was transported to the hospital for treatment. I never passed out, and the doctors feel the only reason I didn’t was the amount of food I had eaten the night before.”

Bellin ended up having 13 surgeries, lost 50% of his blood, spent three months in the hospital and had to re-learn how to walk on legs now held together with metal rods. He has no feeling in one leg below the knee.

When people asked Bellin how he survived the suicide bombing and came back to run the 2022 Ironman World Championship this weekend, he has two words for them: “Pasta Carbonara.”

For more on Bellin’s story, listen in to his visit on Breakfast with Bob this week, where he and coach

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