Inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport

BRET CROSSLEY

I'm Bret Crossley, I'm 39 years old and live in Leeds. I was a successful motorcycle racer, winning over 130 races and 6 club championships, competing on short circuits and road courses in the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and at Oliver's Mount Scarborough in England. It was at the latter however that in September 2006 I had a serious accident, colliding with another rider and being thrown off my motorcycle into a fence post at high speed. My injuries were numerous, the worst being a spinal cord injury (despite wearing a back protector) that has left me wheelchair dependent for life.

I spent over a year in hospital in total recovering from my injuries, during which time I tried a few sports but none of them held any real interest to me. I believed at the time that those were just about all that I would be able to do. It was always going to be hard to get excited however after having experienced the high speed adrenaline rush of racing motorbikes!

It was only after taking part in a multi-activity course in Keswick in July 2009 with BackUp that I realised there were so many more sports and activities available to me. I tried out kayaking, hand-cycling, wheelchair basketball and I went Sit-Skiing in Colorado also with BackUp which was brilliant. It was wheelchair racing though, which I got into more seriously. I started in September 2009 and entered my first event, the Leeds 10k the following June. After loving the experience (despite crashing and injuring my arm!), I entered another 10k in York, then took on the Great North Run in September to raise money for BackUp. The following year I entered the London Marathon, raising money for Aspire. I finished despite suffering a puncture with five miles to go, then a loosening wheel which rubbed against the chair creating a lot of resistance. It was a gruelling experience!

Since then I've competed regularly in races ranging from 100m to full marathons and I've been getting quicker all the time. One of the problems I've had though is being able to train when the weather isn't suitable for it, especially during the winter. This is where the Matt Hampson Foundation came in. In early 2012 they very generously provided funding for my own set of training rollers which I'd have been unable to afford myself. This has made a great difference to my performance. I can now train in my racing wheelchair in all weathers, though the rollers were called into use far more than I would have liked in 2012 thanks to the lousy summer we had!

As well as wheelchair racing I also got back on a motorbike and rode round a race track again in 2011, something I thought I'd never do! I was still able to lap faster than most of the able bodied riders on the track and it felt just as exhilarating as it did before. I even took part in a motorcycle race again with two other paraplegics in Holland last August which was a great experience! I also graduated at Leeds Met in 2011, achieving a 2:1 in Business & Management.

What the Matt Hampson Foundation does for people like me is just fantastic and I can't thank them enough for their help. They've certainly made me one happy wheelchair racer!

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