Sam Willoughby

Getty Images

Olympic medalist rides bike 18 months after crash, paralysis (video)

Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. sweeps world titles in BMX

Sam Willoughby details crash, spine injury, long road to recovery (video)

Leave a comment

A determined Sam Willoughby detailed his Sept. 10 BMX training crash that left him with no feeling below his chest and provided an update on his rehab in a recent TV interview.

Willoughby, a 2012 Australian Olympic silver medalist, landed on his head while riding, fracturing his C6 and C7 vertebrae at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

“Unfortunately, I remember everything,” Willoughby said from his Denver hospital in an Australia “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday. “I remember kind of losing my balance and being upside down, and then I remember just laying on the floor. I could see my leg to one side, but I couldn’t feel it. I was in no pain. I just couldn’t feel. I laid there for a bit, and then my arms went away.

“I didn’t hear anything. So I know that some people said they hear their neck break, they here a crack. I didn’t hear anything. And then people came over. And obviously everyone that was over there was trying to be really positive and calm me down. I’m not stupid. I felt like I knew what had happened.”

Willoughby said he has regained full movement in his arms, has weak movement in his hands and has spasms and sensations in his toes and legs when they’re touched.

Willoughby has said in the last month that it’s his goal to walk his fiancée, U.S. Olympic BMX silver medalist Alise Post, down the aisle at their wedding next year.

“I’ve got the world riding on my back, and it’s my job to stand up,” he said.

A doctor who leads spinal-cord rehabilitation teams at Willoughby’s hospital said it’s unknown if he’ll be able to walk again.

“I’m optimistic that hopefully he’ll get some of those movement signals coming through here in the next few months, but, really, there’s no way we can tell how much he’s going to recover,” Dr. Morgan Brubaker said.

Updates on Willoughby and an opportunity to donate are available here.

MORE: Peter Sagan edges Mark Cavendish for world title

Sam Willoughby: No movement from chest down since training accident

Sam Willoughby
Getty Images
Leave a comment

BMX rider Sam Willoughby has been hospitalized with a severely compressed spinal cord since a training accident on Sept. 10.

He has had no movement from his chest down, according to a statement released by his family on Thursday, but he has regained the use of his arms and is slowly regaining sensation in his legs.

The 25-year-old Australian was injured while training in Chula Vista, Calif. He was airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent an operation after doctors discovered that he sustained fractures in his C6 and C7 vertebrae.

Willoughby, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, is engaged to U.S. BMX rider Alise Post, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist. They are scheduled to get married next year.

“We are in the midst of planning our wedding for next year and one of Sam’s goals is to do everything in his power to walk me down that aisle side-by-side as husband and wife, surrounded by his beautiful loved ones, and ready to celebrate a beautiful future with each and every one of you on this journey with him,” Post said yesterday to Australian media outlet The Advertiser.

Post and Willoughby’s parents have set up a website, Road2Recovery.com, for financial assistance and medical updates.

MORE: Alise Post, Sam Willoughby take tear-filled road to Rio together