August 23, 2011
Jeremy Maddox Keeps Racing Ahead
Jeremy Maddox loved to ride his Big Wheel at full speed when he was little, and his speed just increased with his age and equipment. “Anything I could get on that you could go fast or jump or whatever, I always wanted to be on it,” he said. He advanced to riding in Motocross races, eventually qualifying for the National Motocross quarterfinals here in Georgia in 1998. But he landed badly after a jump during the race and became paralyzed at age 16. Although he was sent to the best hospital in the area, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, his spinal cord damage was done. He was afraid he’d never race again.
Some kids who faced being in a wheelchair for the rest of their life would be discouraged. Some might just lay in bed than try to do anything in a wheelchair. But not Jeremy. He decided he would get an education and go on with his life, and even get back to racing. Somehow.
So he hooked up with the Shepherd Center’s basketball team. After playing a few wheelchair basketball games, he started looking into racing. Now he’s sponsored by the Shepherd Center in races all over the country. When he is in an airport flying somewhere to compete in a race, people notice him and ask him questions.
He explains, “They’re just amazed that you’re getting back out, that you’re not letting things keep you down,” he said. “One thing I tell people is we all have issues — you can just see one of mine. [Bad things] happen to everybody. There’s always another side and you’ve always got to look at the brighter side. You have to decide every day if you’re going to look at every day in a positive or negative way. There are times to be sorrowful and mourn. But at the same time, you have to know what’s appropriate to mourn for. Sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and go on.”
He said that wheelchair racing often feels like a roller-coaster ride. Going up the hills is hard, taking lots of upper body strength, but coming down is crazy. He chuckled, “You talk about getting over 35 mph in a race chair, it starts getting a little hairy, especially if you’ve got to turn and you’ve got people a couple of inches from you drafting. One person makes a mistake and you’re all going for a fuuuun, hospital-ending ride.”
Jeremy has a good outlook on his life. “[Some people] think just because you have a disability, you’re disabled and you can’t do anything. It’s just awesome when you’re doing a race like [the Peachtree road race,] you’re pushing a four-minute mile and you know that there’s only a few Kenyans that are right behind you that can keep up with you. It’s nice to know, people may look down at you, but at the same time in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, but I’m a whole lot faster.’”
So Jeremy took a rough break, adjusted to his new limitations and got an education, married a nice girl and became a father. And he got back to his favorite sport, racing. He helps others find their way through their new disabilities at Shepherd Center, giving back to the facility that helped him recover his freedom and racing passion.
For more information, see: Troyke, Christine Gwinnett Daily Post With a Purpose, UGA Grad Uses Wheelchair Racing as Inspirational Tool. 2 July 2011, found at http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/sports/headlines/With_a_purpose_UGA_grad_uses_wheelchair_racing_as_inspirational_tool_124926379.html