Nikita Smith

Trial Magazine - - TRIAL MAGAZINE - WORDS: THE SMITH FAM­ILY WITH JOHN HULME PIC­TURES: TRI­ALS ME­DIA AND THE SMITH FAM­ILY

Read these open­ing lines and then read them again, es­pe­cially if you have a young fam­ily of your own. Imag­ine the sce­nario in your mind, life’s good in gen­eral with fam­ily life on the farm re­quir­ing all hands on deck at times. Andy Smith, along with his wife Sally and chil­dren Kacey and Nikita love mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als. The el­dest daugh­ter, Nikita, asks for a moped for her six­teenth birth­day which she ex­cit­edly re­ceives. Based around the North York­shire Moors with many small lanes, father Andy gets a phone call he never ex­pected. He is in­formed that his daugh­ter has been in­volved in a col­li­sion with a car whilst rid­ing her moped on a coun­try lane. When the Air Am­bu­lance ar­rived at the scene her heart­beat was only four per minute and the Paramedics were con­cerned she would not sur­vive the he­li­copter trip to the hos­pi­tal. The rest of the story is one of sheer guts and de­ter­mi­na­tion as the ‘eye of the tiger’ shone through in a re­mark­able young lady, Nikita Smith, with sup­port from her fam­ily and friends.

Andy and Sally Smith are the proud par­ents of two young ladies, Kacey and Nikita. Liv­ing on a farm en­vi­ron­ment near Fryup on the North York­shire Moors, they are, shall we say, ad­ven­tur­ous, as the out­doors of­fer so much more than just sit­ting in front of the tele­vi­sion. Whilst the youngest daugh­ter Kacey is not as in­ter­ested in tri­als as Nikita, the fam­ily hol­i­days started to evolve around the mo­torhome and trips ini­tially to the Ladies Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship rounds be­fore, as a fam­ily, they ven­tured into Europe for the World Cham­pi­onship rounds.

Tell us about grow­ing up on the farm.

Grow­ing up on the farm was great fun. From a very young age I would be with dad on the trac­tors or on the quad get­ting all the cows in ready to milk. My mum would take me in my pushchair to my un­cle’s farm where my dad milked and he would bring me back home sat on the front of his Yamaha TY 250.

The Cleve­land Na­tional trial ran right above our farm so, be­fore I can even re­mem­ber, tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles had al­ready caught my eye. At the age of five, I started judo at Glais­dale Judo Club. It stopped af­ter a few years but then my mum took me to train at a karate club where she trained in Whitby when I was seven. I en­joyed learn­ing how to use self-de­fense and the dis­ci­pline it took to get through the grades.

Was your father in­ter­ested in tri­als?

Yes, my dad was in­ter­ested in tri­als even when he was young and he would cy­cle around parts of the Cleve­land trial with his friends. His el­dest brother, Robert, com­peted reg­u­larly in tri­als on a 348 Mon­tesa. Dad watched un­til his late teens when he got a tri­als ma­chine and started rid­ing him­self. My dad said that grow­ing up on the farm there was al­ways some mo­tor­cy­cle kicking around, my gran­dad would even take my granny to the cinema on the back of his mo­tor­cy­cle.

When did you get your first mo­tor­cy­cle?

I was very for­tu­nate that my nan and gran­dad bought me bat­tery op­er­ated bikes but I can re­mem­ber get­ting my first mo­tor­cy­cle for my sixth birth­day — a Honda QR50. It al­ways grounded out on the moor and would never have enough power to pull me up the hills. I had a few crashes but noth­ing enough to re­ally hurt my­self. I would reg­u­larly ride it to the end of our lane to catch the school bus then my mum would bring it back home.

Af­ter get­ting the mo­tor­cy­cle how long was it be­fore you rode it in a trial? Do you re­mem­ber your first trial?

For my seventh birth­day I got a Yamaha TY80 but it took me a while to get used to the clutch. I had a lot more crashes on this, even break­ing my el­bow at one point. I loved it and, seven months later, I rode my first trial at Har­wood Dale run by Scar­bor­ough and District Mo­tor Club, drop­ping 118 marks but I en­joyed it. My older cousin James also had a TY80 so we would head off to many tri­als to­gether as well as prac­tice on the moor.

How old were you when you en­terd your first Ladies BTC round?

I was nine when I en­tered my first Bri­tish round on a Beta 80. Kate Hunter and I would reg­u­larly ride tri­als to­gether and the ACU had just brought a C Class route to the Ladies rounds so it was a good op­por­tu­nity for us both to have a go. It was held at Lin­coln in Mether­ing­ham Quarry.

How did the first BTC go?

It went re­ally well and I en­joyed the day, even though I was re­ally ner­vous at the start. The trial was set out re­ally well with some tricky sec­tions and I fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Chloe Richard­son. I watched her ride through some sec­tions and she was clean­ing most of them so I was very happy to fin­ish where I did.

Ob­vi­ously im­prov­ing you at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the Ace Tri­als Team.

I was so for­tu­nate to get the chance to be in the Ace Tri­als Team. The Kil­hams fam­ily were re­ally sup­port­ive the whole time I was there. I re­mem­ber go­ing to pick the 125cc Gas Gas up with all the ‘Ace’ stick­ers on and all the kit they gave me, it was like Christ­mas day. I soon got used to the 125cc as I went on Ian Auster­mules train­ing days with the Peace broth­ers — Dan and Jack — and this brought me on as Ian taught me a lot. The Kil­hams showed me how every­thing worked in the Euro­pean rounds which were a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

What was your first year in the Ladies World Cham­pi­onship like?

My first year was all about learn­ing, but I wanted to do well but get­ting timed in the sec­tions and walk­ing them the day be­fore was all new to me. My fam­ily was very for­tu­nate to be able to bor­row my dad’s cousin’s cam­per van for the trip to Ger­many and the Czech Repub­lic. My first World rounds were in Grossheuba­ch, Ger­many and the fol­low­ing week­end in the Czech Repub­lic. In Ger­many it was 40ºC so it was a chal­lenge to ride in the heat but the place was great, it was set out so well. I fin­ished 25th and felt I could have rode bet­ter in a lot of the sec­tions.

One week later you im­proved to take 11th and score your first points in the Czech Repub­lic at Tan­vald.

I had pre­vi­ously rid­den in Czech for the Euro­pean round so I knew what it was like. I was still ner­vous at the start and made a few mis­takes through­out the day. At the end, look­ing back, I felt I could have saved many points but was re­ally happy with 11th and get­ting my first few points.

Over the next cou­ple of years your rid­ing con­tin­ued to im­prove re­sult­ing in fin­ish­ing ninth in the 2013 Cham­pi­onship.

When I came back from do­ing the World rounds in 2012, I was mo­ti­vated to try harder and im­prove for the World Cham­pi­onship rounds the fol­low­ing year. I was for­tu­nate enough to have a few lorry loads of rocks from Paul who owns the lo­cal quarry and dad built sec­tions for me to prac­tice on.

By 2013 we were head­ing to An­dorra for a two day World round. Af­ter the first day fin­ish­ing in 15th was very dis­ap­point­ing and we also strug­gled with the time al­lowance. Emma (Bris­tow) also had trou­ble with time al­lowance so we were both dis­ap­pointed in our tent. Af­ter­wards, mum gave me a firm talk­ing to and it must have worked be­cause I had my best re­sult so far in sixth po­si­tion and Emma took the win.

Were you look­ing at the podium in the 2014 Ladies WTC?

Yes I was as I never felt I rode my best in any of the World rounds so I was look­ing for a podium fin­ish es­pe­cially in 2014. I con­tin­ued to prac­tice through­out the win­ter do­ing as many tri­als as I could and moved from a 125cc to a 250cc Gas Gas. It took a while to get used to the power but I started to feel more con­fi­dent as the Bri­tish rounds were ap­proach­ing. Through­out the be­gin­ning of 2014, I felt like I was im­prov­ing all the time on the 250. I felt the podium was in my reach but it wasn’t meant to be.

In early June you were in­volved in the road traf­fic ac­ci­dent that would change your life for­ever.

I got my moped be­fore my 16th birth­day; it was great know­ing I had the free­dom to make my own way to work, col­lege and see­ing my friends. My mum and dad have helped me to write this as I don’t re­mem­ber the few days be­fore my ac­ci­dent.

I prac­ticed on my tri­als ma­chine on the morn­ing of the 18th June be­fore I set off to col­lege — iron­i­cally af­ter I had watched the Rocky film! I was in­volved in a head-on crash with a car around a blind cor­ner about a mile from home. This was very un­lucky — how­ever, the next few mo­ments were ‘lucky’.

The Air Am­bu­lance doc­tor, Mike Dav­i­son, said that the next 100 things went my way. Di­rectly af­ter the crash there just hap­pened to be a re­tired fire­man out walk­ing with his wife who started CPR and kept me alive un­til the Great North Air Am­bu­lance ar­rived. The Air Am­bu­lance ar­rived within min­utes of the ac­ci­dent but as they got to me my heart beat was four beats per minute. They took half an hour to sta­bilise me as both my lungs had col­lapsed so drains were put in. I had a com­pound frac­ture of my left fe­mur and my patella (knee) had also shat­tered into many pieces. My crash hel­met was ripped off with the force of the crash leav­ing me with se­vere head in­juries so I was put into a coma at the scene.

You were air­lifted to the James Cook Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in Mid­dles­bor­ough where you put up a tremen­dous fight for life which pulled you through the most dif­fi­cult pe­riod de­spite the in­juries.

The Great North Air Am­bu­lance peo­ple were ex­cel­lent and got me there alive in just seven min­utes de­spite my heart stop­ping twice on the way. As soon as I got to the James Cook Hos­pi­tal, I was rushed in for scans but more im­por­tant were the brain scans which re­vealed two bleeds, two frac­tures to the skull and my brain was swelling fast. The neu­ro­sur­geons ac­tu­ally said that they weren’t go­ing to op­er­ate as it was in­op­er­a­ble brain dam­age and there was noth­ing they could do. Luck­ily, a trauma nurse and a doc­tor pushed the neu­ro­sur­geons to have a look at my con­di­tion and thank­fully they did. My par­ents were told that if they did op­er­ate there was a chance I would die but if they didn’t then I would die. I was taken to theatre for a cran­iotomy where they took a side of my skull out to al­low room for my brain to swell and they also placed a bolt in my head to mea­sure the pres­sure in my brain. It all went well un­til it came to sta­pling the skin up and my heart stopped again — they said it took five min­utes to restart it.

I had other in­juries like a bro­ken wrist, ver­te­bra and pelvis and col­lapsed lungs. I was kept in In­ten­sive Care in a coma where my heart stopped a fur­ther time.

Af­ter a week-and-a-half, they took me off all pain med­i­ca­tion to see how bad the dam­age to my brain af­fected me but my heart rate went up and my blood pres­sure went low so I was put back in a coma for a few days when they tried again. Af­ter just over two weeks in In­ten­sive Care, I was trans­ferred to Pae­di­atric In­ten­sive Care where I just im­proved ev­ery day and the med­i­cal staff were amazed at how well I could func­tion given the scars and dam­age to my brain.

Once you left hos­pi­tal the months ahead must have ap­peared tough?

Yes, it was chal­leng­ing with a ‘pot’ be­ing on my leg and it was very painful to go on car jour­neys so I spent most of the time at home. I couldn’t do many things on my own with hav­ing so lit­tle en­ergy and my bal­ance was very poor on crutches so my mum and dad had to help me with every­thing. I strug­gled to watch films as I just couldn’t get into them and had no con­cen­tra­tion so I mainly lis­tened to mu­sic.

I still had a lot of ap­point­ments at the hos­pi­tal as I had the in­fec­tion in my leg and my skull wasn’t sit­ting right in my head. I had to learn some things again es­pe­cially with hav­ing no co-or­di­na­tion, like catch­ing a ball. I strug­gled with telling the time and writ­ing but with a lit­tle prac­tice over time it all came back. It wasn’t an easy process, es­pe­cially leav­ing the hos­pi­tal af­ter two months but my friends reg­u­larly mes­saged me. It was nice to have Do­minic Feaks mes­sage me as he was also go­ing through a tough time. We would talk about how we al­ways com­peted to­gether and hope­fully one day we could ride again. He was re­ally pos­i­tive and I hope we kept each other go­ing.

Tell us about the re­cov­ery process.

I’ve had a lot of help with my re­cov­ery and I have so many peo­ple to thank. Saul Black in Whitby is us­ing cold laser ther­apy on my leg al­most ev­ery week. Jake Miller who con­tacted ‘Woody’ Hole at Hope for a road bike which is an ex­cel­lent way to build up my knee. Fam­ily, friends and many peo­ple have helped me with my re­cov­ery. There are too many to name but I can’t thank you all enough for your sup­port and prayers.

I would also like to thank Gas Gas and the whole tri­als com­mu­nity. They were so sup­port­ive to all of my fam­ily through­out my re­cov­ery which has made it eas­ier. My fam­ily is also very thank­ful es­pe­cially to the In­ten­sive Care unit in James Cook and the Great North Air Am­bu­lance who are en­tirely funded by the pub­lic.

Life is re­turn­ing back to nor­mal as I have fi­nally been fit enough to pass my driv­ing test and have been dis­charged from hos­pi­tal. Physio is slowly de­clin­ing as I am build­ing the mus­cles up on the Hope push­bike and in the gym. Through­out my re­cov­ery the lo­cal vicar and his wife would al­ways be in touch say­ing prayers through­out my time in hos­pi­tal and my re­cov­ery and I would go to church of­ten.

What are your plans for the fu­ture?

I plan to con­tinue to ride in tri­als and hope to be back com­pet­ing in both the Bri­tish and World rounds in 2017 but we will see how it all goes. I still have physio for my leg and will con­tinue build­ing it up through­out the win­ter. The re­cov­ery is still on­go­ing and I have to thank my sur­geon for the lat­est oper­a­tion which all other sur­geons said was im­pos­si­ble to do. He was Nick Lon­don from Har­ro­gate Hos­pi­tal and he was rec­om­mended by my spon­sor, Gra­ham Pea­cock.

THE SMITH FAM­ILY:

“This has been a very dif­fi­cult time for all the fam­ily as at one point we had to come to terms with the fact that we could have lost Nikita. De­spite the se­vere na­ture of the in­juries she has shown an in­cred­i­ble will to sur­vive and is now on her way to re­cov­ery and the path back to com­pet­ing in mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als once again. The sup­port from the world of tri­als has touched the whole fam­ily and we would like to thank ev­ery­one who has shown their sup­port for our daugh­ter.”

JOHN HULME, TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE:

“I knew the Smith fam­ily well be­fore the ac­ci­dent and we had Nikita on the radar as a chal­lenger for the podium in the Ladies WTC in 2014. The news of the ac­ci­dent was very up­set­ting and I made the jour­ney to see Nikita in hos­pi­tal in the early days of her re­cov­ery. I ex­pected a very sad day but the first thing I saw was a smile from this re­mark­able young lady. De­spite her body be­ing bro­ken, the hu­mour and smile was still there. Over the com­ing months and then years I have kept my eye on her progress un­til I was trav­el­ling to the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship round this year near Castle­ton and the home of Nikita’s fam­ily.

“My wife com­mented that we had just passed a cy­clist who looked like Nikita; we were in the mid­dle of nowhere on the open moors, ‘Never’ was my re­ply. On the day of the event I saw Andy and Sally Smith and com­mented on our sight­ing and they replied: “Yes that will be Nikita”. The ‘eye of the tiger’ was shin­ing though in this very de­ter­mined and like­able young lady once again”.

2014: The James Cook Hos­pi­tal be­came home. The road to re­cov­ery was a long one. Step by step. 2015: It’s Au­gust at the BTC near their home at Fryup on the North York­shire Moors. Learn­ing to walk again. 2016: Ded­i­ca­tion on the road to fitness and tri­als...

2012: Get­ting more con­fi­dent all the time. 2013: Look­ing good in the early part of the sea­son at Sey­mour’s Arena BTC. 2013: In An­dorra on day two at the WTC. All the hard work was re­warded with a 6th place fin­ish. 2014: The ex­tra power af­ter the move...

2012: Work­ing on the tech­nique.

2008: Com­pet­ing on the Beta 80 near Mat­lock.

2010: On the Ace Tri­als Team Gas Gas in the Ladies BTC at Chea­dle.

62 Oc­to­ber 2016 In­ter­na­tional Dirt Bike Show: It’s all smiles from Nikita here on the left with her sis­ter Kacey.

July 2014: Mum Sally and dad Andy keep an eye on their daugh­ter in the James Cook Hos­pi­tal in the early days af­ter the ac­ci­dent.

2016: A re­turn to tri­als and the podium with 3rd po­si­tion at the North Berks Su­per­trial. 2016: It’s a ra­di­ant Nikita Smith with Gas Gas UK im­porter and fam­ily friend John Shirt Jnr.

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