Sam Willoughby rode a BMX bike in a video published Thursday, another sign of progress from a September 2016 training crash that temporarily left him with no feeling below his chest.
Willoughby, a 2012 Olympic BMX silver medalist for Australia, realized a goal on New Year’s Eve. With the aid of a walker, he walked his fiancée, 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Alise Post, down the aisle at their wedding. They also danced together to Ed Sheeran‘s “Perfect.”
“It’s fantastic. Life is good,” Willoughby, who turns 27 on Aug. 15, said on a podcast published in February. “It’s a little bit different, obviously, than what I had planned at 27.”
Willoughby gave Post a note on their wedding day saying that she saved his life.
“It gave me so much to fight for when tragedy struck,” Willoughby said of their plan to get married (Willoughby proposed in December 2015). “It gave me a purpose. I wanted to be alive with her.”
On Sept. 10, 2016, Willoughby was warming up on a rhythm section of little jumps on a BMX track he had ridden daily for six years at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He lost control, backflipped and landed on the top of his head, breaking his neck.
“When I was in the hospital, they used terms like quadriplegic,” Willoughby said. “They didn’t really give me a lot of hope.”
When Post arrived at the hospital, Willoughby told her that he would understand if she didn’t go through with the marriage.
“I didn’t want to be a burden on her life,” he said. “She said I’m not going anywhere.”
The next month, Willoughby said he had regained full movement in his arms, weak movement in his hands and spasms and sensations in his toes and legs when they were touched.
Willoughby was released to go home on Dec. 31, 2016, and since progressed through therapy six days per week. By July, he could pedal a stationary bike for 30 minutes and crawl with weights around his ankles, according to the (Adelaide) Advertiser. By the end of 2017, he could do squats and drive a car, according to the Australian Associated Press.
It took him months of practice to walk with aid at his wedding.
“I keep chipping away at it every day, not knowing what the future holds,” Willoughby said on the podcast. “I know what the future holds if I stop.”
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