Driver on track to save spines

Central Leader - - SPORT - By JAMES IRE­LAND

‘‘Mad’’ Mike Whid­dett was told he would never walk again back in 2002.

Now the pro­fes­sional drift-car driver is back on his feet and spent Sun­day run­ning to raise money for spinal cord in­jury re­search.

He was com­pet­ing as a mo­tocross rider when he took flight over a 75-foot jump, throw­ing his legs over the han­dle­bars.

But a tail­wind pushed him and his bike passed the land­ing ramp and his back took the brunt of the im­pact.

‘‘I had com­pres­sion frac­tures in four ver­te­brae. I was told I was paral­ysed. It was ter­ri­fy­ing but eight hours later I got the feel­ing back in my feet.

‘‘I was lucky, I didn’t need surgery. The doc­tors told me to take it easy but I got back on my bike in about three months.’’

On Sun­day Whid­dett put on his run­ning shoes for the Wings for Life World Run at Hamp­ton Downs Race­way.

The run is a world­wide event in which run­ners in 34 coun­tries all start at the same time. The last man stand­ing is the win­ner.

Af­ter half an hour a pace car starts to fol­low the run­ners at 15kmh, in­creas­ing its speed ev­ery hour up to 35kmh af­ter five and a half hours. When the pace car catches a run­ner, it’s game over.

Ev­ery cent raised by the run­ners will go to­wards spinal cord re­search and the event is open to the pub­lic.

Whid­dett has turned his fo­cus away from mo­tocross since his ac­ci­dent and for the past six years has been com­pet­ing in drift­ing com­pe­ti­tions lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

‘‘With age comes a cage. It’s much safer to be in a car.’’

But he says if he can play a small part in find­ing a cure for spinal cord in­juries he will be happy.

‘‘It’s such a com­mon in­jury that can have a mas­sive im­pact on your life. Some­thing as sim­ple as fall­ing off a lad­der can be re­ally dam­ag­ing.’’

Photo: JAMES IRE­LAND

Rac­ing spirit: ‘‘Mad’’ Mike Whid­dett took part in the Wings for Life World Run on Sun­day.

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