Danger­ous to go slow

South Africa’s only quad­ri­plegic racer will be living his motto at Har­ri­smith this week­end

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AMIL UMRAW

JAR­ROD Black­man (24) from Hil­ton can be ex­cused for wear­ing a tiny su­per­man logo around his neck. This for­mer fac­tory of­froad mo­tor­bike racer has achieved what many con­sid­ered to be su­per­hu­man feats since he hit a rock in a “slow crash” in 2010.

Paral­ysed from the chest down, he spent years learn­ing how to be mo­bile again, or as he writes in a mov­ing poem — be­ing frag­ile af­ter be­ing ag­ile.

To­day Black­man is a quiet force of in­spi­ra­tion to many, from stroke vic­tims to of­froad race­car driv­ers. He and co-driver Matthew English (26) will be rac­ing against the lat­ter group in a spe­cial pipe car im­ported from Canada tommorow and Satur­day. The roll cage of the 1 000 cc ve­hi­cle has been adapted to open up so that he can be lifted in and strapped to the seat. Once in­side, his left hand gets strapped to a spe­cial grip on the steer­ing wheel, while his right arm gets tied to a slid­ing lever with which he works the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

He does not con­sider his achieve­ments to date su­per­hu­man. Sin­gle-minded maybe and mad about rac­ing def­i­nitely, but com­pared to other paral­ysed ath­letes, he is about par for the course. But for his many fol­low­ers on YouTube, Black­man shows the way out of de­pres­sion and into fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion to not only live, but be fully alive.

He has only 70% mus­cle in his arms and is oth­er­wise paral­ysed from the chest down, but this hasn’t put a glitch in the young man’s rac­ing dreams. “It’s danger­ous to go slow,” Black­man laughed as he de­scribed his near fa­tal fall back in 2010 when he was go­ing at about 30 km/h.

About the grim years of re­hab, he said: “My goal was never to walk, it was to race.

“Dur­ing re­hab, my psy­chol­o­gist asked me to write out a list of six goals. My first goal was get­ting back on a bike and my sec­ond goal was to race. Only my sixth goal was to walk,” he said.

It took him al­most a year just to roll over on his side unas­sisted and four years to re­gain most of his in­de­pen­dence.

“A dis­abil­ity is never some­thing that should hold you back from your dreams. You take safety for granted as you look at the risks of a race as aca­demic. I de­cided long ago that I was never go­ing to stop rac­ing and that’s where re­cov­ery be­gins — in the mind,” Black­man said.

To­mor­row’s race sees him and English tackle the first-leg of the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship, when they will reach speeds of 120 km/h over rough ter­rain.

Apart from his rac­ing, Black­man has now taken it upon him­self to help other phys­i­cally dis­abled peo­ple, who all face the same set of prob­lems, one of which is the need for ex­pert re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to stay healthy.

In­spired by Ma­hatma Gandhi’s: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”, Black­man started his own well­ness cen­tre in Hil­ton, called the Sci-Mo­tion gym, where he of­fers re­hab ex­er­cises on the right equip­ment for peo­ple who suf­fered a stroke or paral­y­sis at a cost that is af­ford­able to most. More on www.sci­mo­tion.org

SEVEN crews from three con­ti­nents have en­tered the week­end’s rac­ing at Har­ri­smith as part of the Dakar Chal­lenge events.

The crews are all look­ing to earn a free en­try into the 2016 Dakar. Five crews will be com­pet­ing in the Pro­duc­tion Ve­hi­cle cat­e­gory and two in the Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle cat­e­gory. Two of the five Pro­duc­tion Ve­hi­cle en­tries for the RFS En­durance are from the pre­mier Class T, which caters for cars over four litres with in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion. South African Na­tional Off Road As­so­ci­a­tion CEO Richard Schilling said the Dakar Chal­lenge strength­ens the ties be­tween lo­cal cross coun­try rac­ing and the Dakar Rally and has be­come an im­por­tant part of the Don­ald­son cham­pi­onship.

The RFS En­durance will be based at the La La Nathi re­sort on the out­skirts of Har­ri­smith. A 196-kilo­me­tre qual­i­fy­ing race to de­ter­mine grid po­si­tions will start at 10.30 am to­mor­row and the race, run over two laps of 251 kilo­me­tres, will start at 8.30 am on Satur­day.

PHOTO: AMIL UMRAW

Hil­tonite Jar­rod Black­man with the pipe car in which he will com­pete in to­mor­row’s na­tional cross coun­try race near Har­ri­smith.

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