The eighth annual Extremity Games kicked off on May 25 as athletes from as far away as the United Kingdom gathered at Baja Acres Motocross Park in Millington, Mich., for the day-long motocross competition.
Extremity Games, hosted by the Athletes with Disabilities Network, is an extreme sports competition for athletes with limb loss or limb difference. The motocross divisions are categorized by stand-up for competitors with limb loss and sit-down for competitors with paralysis or spinal cord injuries. For the first time since the Games began, the stand-up category was also split into two divisions: upper extremity and lower extremity.
The race uses a two moto format, in which each competitor races twice and the two finishing times are combined to determine the overall winner. A total of 18 racers competed, including several newcomers.
Images: Images: Speedpunks Specialized Images.
“There were a few new guys, and they were ecstatic to have an event that was for them,” Jim Wazny, an event organizer and competitor, told O&P Business News. “Especially with the three divisions, everyone was so thankful. We had great weather, and the racing was fantastic.”
In the upper extremity division, first-time competitor Steve Howe easily secured a first place finish, winning both motos. Howe is a unilateral transradial amputee, due to a birth defect. He was followed by fellow first-timer Drake Smeltz in second and Harold Glissen in third.
“Steve pulled away from us, so in our class, the tight racing was for second,” Glissen said. “I had a good battle going with Drew Gentile and Drake Smeltz. The three of us had a good battle going in both motos.”
Smeltz, a 13-year-old unilateral transradial amputee, narrowly edged out Glissen at the finish line of the second moto, propelling him to his second place overall finish. Smeltz is sponsored by Glissen’s motivational speaking company, Only One Inspiration.
“He passed me at the finish line in the second race and somehow passed the teacher,” Glissen joked.
The stand-up lower extremity division was also a tight race with newcomer Max Gomez edging out veteran rider and defending champion Mike Schultz to win both motos.
“The first race was a nail biter with Mike coming into the last final section leading,” Wazny said. “And Max made the pass probably five turns before the finish line to take the win over Mike in the first moto. And then in the second one, Mike had a crash and Max was able to run away with the win for the second to get the overall.”
Despite the crash, Schultz was able to remount and regain his second place position, taking the second place overall title. Jason Jackson was the third place finisher.
This was Gomez’s first time racing at Extremity Games. Gomez, a 19-year-old unilateral transtibial amputee, was involved in a motocross accident in June 2012 that resulted in the amputation of his right foot.
Gomez is also an Only One Inspiration sponsored rider, who met Glissen for the first time while he was in the hospital recovering from his accident. During the visit, Glissen also brought fellow Extremity Games competitor and transtibial amputee Eric Brumagin to meet Gomez. Brumagin had sustained a similar injury while racing motocross, so he was able to offer support and guidance for returning to the sport.
“I am happy to be part of his recovery and to be able to put him and Eric together and put him on the track to recovery,” Glissen said. “It was exciting for him to come out and win within 1 year of losing his leg.”
In the sit-down division, Doug Henry returned to the podium this year securing first in both motos and earning the first place title. Henry was trailed by Tyler Frye in second and John Harris in third.
The day concluded with an exhibition race, where all of the riders competed against one another. Schultz secured the first place finish, followed by Gomez in second and Tim Burrows, a transfemoral amateur motocross rider from the United Kingdom, in third.
“We were blessed with a great day and great people showed up, and it went off without a hitch,” Wazny said.
Extremity Games Main Event
The second half of the competition, the Extremity Games Main Event, was held June 14-15 at the Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. The Main Event began with a full day of instructional clinics in skateboarding, wakeboarding, rock climbing, kayaking and mixed martial arts. Extremity Games 8 concluded on the second day with elite and novice competitions in kayaking, mountain biking, wakeboarding, skateboarding, rock climbing and powerlifting. — by Megan Gilbride