Dangerous to go slow
South Africa’s only quadriplegic racer will be living his motto at Harrismith this weekend
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.
Hiltonite Jarrod Blackman with the pipe car in which he will compete in tomorrow’s national cross country race near Harrismith.