MAMMOTH TIMES • July 2-8, 2010
New motocross events allow opportunities
By Tiffany Henschel Mammoth Times Staff
Two adaptive motocross riders came to Mammoth this year to ride the worldfamous track during Monster Energy’s Mammoth Motocross. But with all of the dust, noise and excitement, you might not have noticed them. Adaptive motocross has evolved exponentially over the past five years, giving people who were told they’d never walk or ride a bike again the chance to start all over and compete professionally.
Recent progression in adaptive sports
‘Adaptive’ sports refers to athletes with disabilities, whether physical, mental, permanent or temporary. When it comes to motocross, the term usually refers to those with either a limb loss (amputee) or limb difference (paraplegic or quadriplegic). The X-Games added an adaptive motocross event to its schedule two years ago, allowing the idea of adaptive extreme sports to go more mainstream in the sports industry. The Extremity Games, which just completed its 5th year, acts as the official pre-qualifier to the ESPN Summer X-Games Super X Adaptive Finals. It has grown considerably over the past few years.
“The first year we had 10 or so riders come out for the motocross event and this year we had over 20 riders,” said Beth Taylor, executive director for the Athletes with Disabilities Network (which organizes the event). “We have hosted riders from across the country and the world, and are consistently receiving inquiries from new riders to see how they can be involved.” Motocross is not the only adaptive sport in the Extremity Games, or the X-Games, for that matter. In the Extremity Games, in partnership with Adaptive Action Sports, athletes have the opportunity to compete in multiple events, including skateboarding, rock climbing, wakeboarding, sitboarding and kayaking, even mixed martial arts. They also host competitions, instructional clinics, and exhibitions for those living with limb loss or difference. Recently they welcomed members of the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project to join the event and compete in their sports, as well as allowing them to try new sports they might not have considered before. X-Games 14, in 2008, was the first year to offer an official Adaptive Motocross medal event. It was the second of three Adaptive medal events to be introduced into the X-Games, after Mono Skier in 2007 and before Adaptive Snowcross in 2010.
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PHOTO BY SUSAN MORNING
Nick Pappas catches air during the Mammoth Motocross this past Father’s Day.
Mammoth Motocross does not have its own ‘adaptive’ category, but at the last minute entered two very different yet equally talented motocross athletes into the competition to participate this year alongside their fellow non-adaptive riders.
A father, business owner and professional athlete, Nick Pappas keeps busy while still holding his own on the track. After just turning pro at the young age of 16, he was severely injured while riding and became a T4-6 paraplegic. It happened right before he was supposed to show up for the 1995 Mammoth Motocross. “I went from having tons of sponsors, being a pro, to nothing,” he said. “It’s like I got pushed underneath the rug.” It wasn’t until about five years ago that he began riding professionally again. In the intervening years he started a family, two businesses, and got involved with the Full Circle Foundation making modified go-karts. “I was taking kids from hospitals and helped them race without being at a disadvantage.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t much funding available to keep it going. In the future, Nick hopes to make enough money in his business ventures to start a foundation where he can help kids in similar situations. “When you’re a kid and this happens, you feel like your life is done. One day I decided I was going to live and never looked back.” Nick is thankful that adaptive sports are becoming more popular, because it turns something negative into something extremely positive. “It’s an ‘out’ from people saying that you can’t do this
MAMMOTH TIMES • July 2 - 8, 2010
for adaptive athletes
MAMMOTH TIMES PHOTO/TIFFANY HENSCHEL
Todd Thompson makes his way down the freeway during the Mammoth Motocross.
Sports & Outdoors anymore,” Nick said. Nick is the CEO of CMYK Print and Promotions, a printing, packaging and promotional company based in Tracy, Calif. He is also the owner of Chump Industries, an action-sports-based clothing and lifestyle company. When he called about riding at this year’s Motocross, he hadn’t been on the Mammoth track in 16 years. “I just wanted to go on vacation with my family and have fun riding. I told them, I don’t care what class you put me in.” Laurey Carlson, Event Manager for Mammoth Motocross, was able to fit him into the Vet Junior category, and he got to ride the track on Father’s Day. Nick was automatically qualified for the X-Games this year because he got third place in last year’s X-Games event.
An up and coming pro adaptive athlete, Todd Thompson was at the top of his game in 1998 when a severe injury while riding left him with a prosthetic below his right knee. Similar to Pappas, Todd took time off after his injury and started a family and a business, Power Curve Performance. It wasn’t until about 10 years after his fall that he was watching the X-Games Adaptive Motocross event with friend and fellow rider Manny Ornellas of CDG Industries in Redding, Calif. “He was sitting there going, ‘Why am I not doing this?’” Manny said. It was then that he decided to get back into competitive motocross. In June of 2009, Todd was lucky enough to travel to the Dominican Republic for the Hi Rise FMX show, where he got to spend time with some of the biggest names in Motocross and work on their bikes. Organizations such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation have helped Todd get to where he is today. “If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said
Nick Pappas with a modified go-kart
in a video interview last year. “I hope I can represent them well.” In May, he competed in this year’s Extremity Games in Michigan. He won the qualifier and took home silver in his race, behind Chris Ridgway. He will also be competing in the X-Games later this month in the ‘limb-loss’ adaptive class. At the Mammoth Motocross, Carlson entered him into the Open Intermediate category. Ornellas shares his friend’s passion. “I want the guys who come back injured from Afghanistan and Iraq to see stuff like this. That’s my goal,” Manny said. As Vice President of Operations, Sales and Marketing at CDG Industries, Manny helps make hardware for factory race team bikes. He’s was inspired by the adaptive extreme sports family and has been helping out ever since. Todd says that his biggest obstacle so far has been his prosthetic. He doesn’t have one that is made for motocross specifically, and often he has to take a break to adjust it after a few laps. “It’s a big hurdle because my resources are limited,” Todd said in the interview last year. Recently, a team in Northern California that manufactures prosthetics helped to get Todd fitted to the point where his prosthetic works well when he rides and doesn’t fall off. “It all came together just in time for the qualifiers,” See “ADAPTIVE MOTO” Page 34
MAMMOTH TIMES • July 2-8, 2010
ADAPTIVE MOTO continued from Page 33
mammoth times photo/tiffany henschel
Todd Thompson with his Suzuki before practicing on the track in Mammoth
together just in time for the qualifiers,” Manny said. “He basically went to Michigan learning to ride his new bike and everything came together within days of the competition. It was perfect.”
Finals” will be televised live during late July/early August.
Up and coming
www.extremitygames.com www.challengedathletes.org www.adacs.com www.espn.go.com/xgames www.adnpage.org
Both Todd and Nick will compete in this year’s X-Games, when the motocross event is split into two parts: one class for limb loss, and another for limb difference. The “Super-X Adaptive
Nick and his fellow riders accept awards in this year’s Extremity Games held in Michigan.
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