Before you watch Johnny’s interview with Todd Thompson, here’s what you should know about Todd…
Todd Thompson grew up in a family of motorcycle enthusiasts, so a career in motocross seemed a very natural path for him. On his first motorcycle at the age of 2, Todd spent his childhood riding and going to races with his father near their home in Northern California. But an accident in 1998 at the age of nineteen derailed his budding career and put the inherent dangers of the sport in a new perspective.
During a race, a spill on a poorly-lit turn caused Todd to catch himself and come down on his right leg, shattering it completely. After two weeks in the hospital, he and his medical team were faced with a harrowing decision. They could keep trying to repair the leg with an unknown number of surgeries, with little guarantee it would work and with a real chance of infection setting it, risking the health of more than just the leg. Or, they could amputate. Todd chose the latter.
“As a 19-year old kid it’s hard to lay in a hospital bed and wonder what that’s going to be like,” he says about life without his leg. “It was a tough decision [but] at the same time, I wanted to get better. I was sick of fighting, I was sick of laying in a hospital bed and losing weight. . . . It was then and there that I decided that I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I’d always been a competitor and I’d always been an athlete, and that wasn’t going to change.”
That resolve carried with him throughout the arduous process of not only learning to walk again, but ride again. After months of healing and rehabilitation, Todd was able to adapt to his new condition and, with the help of a prosthetic leg, get back on a bike. Looking back, it’s clear his love for the sport transcended anything life could throw at him.
“I knew the entire process that I was going through was going to be worth it in the end,” he says. “The question of, did I ever think that my riding career was over? No. Honestly, I never did. I always knew that, no matter what. Honestly, if I lost my [prosthetic] leg and would never be able to wear it, I’d be out there on one leg. That’s how much this sport means to me. And when there’s a threat of it being taken away, you tend to want to hold on to it more, and that’s what I did. I wasn’t going to accept defeat and I wasn’t going to accept that this was going to be the last.”
Today, Todd competes at the highest level of adaptive professional motocross, winning a silver medal at last summer’s X Games and recently racing at the famed Daytona track. Like all athletes, his success is directly related to the spirit and determination he has in everyday life.
“I don’t consider myself handicapped or disabled,” he says. “That’s not even part of my vocabulary. That’s how I want it to be and that’s how I want others in my same situation to think. It empowers you, when you have that mindset – yea, I may [have lost] my leg, but I’m still better than you. That’s how you have to be. That’s part of being a badass, I guess.”
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