For years I dreamed of racing in the Dakar Rally and made it my goal to compete one day. This dream was shattered when, at the Heidelberg Harescramble in 2007, I was involved in a serious crash near the start. I smashed 12 teeth and was unconscious with head trauma, several broken ribs, and a broken back at T8-T9 that damaged my spinal cord, leaving me completely paralysed from just below my chest. Later, I was diagnosed as “incomplete” with about a 10% chance of walking again. And if I did, I would walk badly with crutches.
Life was very difficult for a long time as I came to terms with my injury and worked towards the best recovery possible. Walking seemed like an unattainable dream REMOVED NOW, let alone the Dakar. But as the months passed I went from learning to stand, to barely walking in between parallel bars with back slabs on my legs. I then moved onto crutches until I was walking unaided. I still dreamed of the Dakar and it motivated me to work towards that goal. Within a few years I started riding again… and then racing again. I worked towards my Dakar dream by racing in the Botswana Desert Race, the Amageza Rally, and then the Merzouga Rally in Morocco, earning my place on the starting line of the Dakar Rally in January 2017.
I still have numerous complications from the spinal cord injury; I can’t run or jump, I don’t have hot, cold or proper pain sensation below my chest, I suffer with pain and spasms, I have limited bowel control and use catheters daily. But in January 2017 I was on the starting line of the Dakar Rally in Asuncion, Paraguay with a new goal: to finish the Dakar Rally!
The Dakar was filled with more trials than I could have imagined: tearing a ligament in my knee on the fourth day, riding past midnight for days, several crashes, having my bike driven over by a car on the second-last stage and many other problems. But despite all the challenges, with my team’s support and cheered on by family, friends and supporters, I somehow managed to make it to the finish line in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some 9000km and 13 days later, totally broken and exhausted, but the happiest guy on the planet – a dream turned into reality.