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Paralysed BMX champ Sam Willoughby amazes doctors and gets back on his bike

Ben Harvy, April 2, 2018 7:00PM The Advertiser

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Sam Willoughby is back riding a BMX bike. Picture: Neuro Ex Inc Facebook page media_cameraSam Willoughby is back riding a BMX bike. Picture: Neuro Ex Inc Facebook page

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Australian BMX champion Sam Willoughby cannot walk after breaking his back in a freak* training accident, but, amazingly, he can now ride a bike again.

Video shows the Adelaide-born Olympic silver medallist pushing down hard on his BMX bike pedals to ride unassisted* on a quiet road in San Diego in the US where he now lives.

Sam Willoughby sets off on his bike ride. Picture: Neuro Ex Inc Facebook media_cameraSam Willoughby sets off on his bike ride. Picture: Neuro Ex Inc Facebook

The video begins with Willoughby taking off from a long driveway. A man guiding him follows on foot, just in case he falls, but the 26-year-old looks steady as ever on two wheels, steering the bike in a loop and back towards the driveway.

It is just another step in the amazing recovery for Willoughby, who was paralysed* from the chest down after falling from his bike.

BMX star Sam Willoughby in hospital after he broke his back. media_cameraBMX star Sam Willoughby in hospital after he broke his back.
Sam Willoughby with the knee braces that help him stand. Picture: supplied media_cameraSam Willoughby with the knee braces that help him stand. Picture: supplied

Willoughby suffered two broken vertebrae* and a badly flattened spinal cord. Despite surgeons being able to repair some of the damage to his spine, they were unsure if he would ever stand or walk again.

However, the video posted on social media by Neuro Ex Inc — the Adaptive Performance and Neuro* Recovery team helping Willoughby in his bid to walk again — shows that the Australian champion’s health is quickly improving.

Sam Willoughby riding unassisted in San Diego. media_cameraSam Willoughby riding unassisted in San Diego.

The caption on the video refers to the upcoming Olympic Games in Japan and has one of the medical specialists saying: “Tokyo 2020 …? Sam Willoughby (C6 Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury) is the first client I have worked with in almost 20 years who isn’t walking yet, but can ride a BMX bike!”

Willoughby is also able to stand on his own with support from specially made knee braces which stop his legs from buckling. He used them to stand for the ceremony when he married his wife Alise in January.

Sam and Alise Willoughby on their wedding day. Sam was able to stand with the use of knee braces. Picture: Steve Diamond media_cameraSam and Alise Willoughby on their wedding day. Sam was able to stand with the use of knee braces. Picture: Steve Diamond

GLOSSARY

freak: very unusual or unexpected

unassisted: not helped by anyone or anything

paralysed: not able to move

vertebrae: small bones in the spine

neuro: relating to nerves or the nervous system

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

1. Amazing Sam

After reading the article, answer the following questions in as much detail as possible. Try and include the question within your answer.

— who is Sam Willoughby?
— what happened to Sam?
— what has Sam recently achieved?
— where does Sam live?
— what injuries did Sam sustain while BMX riding?
— who’s helping Sam with his recovery?
— how does the future look for Sam?
— what do you think of Sam’s recovery?

Extension: Write a list of things that would’ve changed for Sam since suffering this injury. Try and think of some positives among the negatives.

Time: Allow 15 minutes

Curriculum links: English

2. Achieving Goals

Sam Willoughby has achieved a lot since his accident including being able to crawl again, stand for his wedding day and to ride a bike unassisted.

Write down three goals you’d like to achieve over three different time frames.

A goal I’d like to achieve this year:

A goal I’d like to achieve over the next 2-3 years:

A goal I’d like to achieve in the future:

Find a positive quote to remind you to stay strong, be positive and inspire you to reach these goals. Write your favourite quote on a piece of coloured paper and decorate it so you can place somewhere at home to read regularly.

Extension: What else might inspire you to set goals and try to reach them. What advice would you give kids entering their teenage years to aim high and always do their best?

Time: Allow 40 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Personal & Social, Critical & Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT TODAY’S STORY

Please do not use one-word answers. Tell us what you enjoyed or found interesting in today’s article. Use lots of adjectives.

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