Tag Archives: ricky james motocross

The Professionals: 3 Adapted Athletes Who’ve Gone Pro


Adapted athletics can be a serious business; it’s not all feel-good times. For those who excel at their chosen sport, professionalism is a possibility. From wheelchair racing to bodybuilding, you can get paid to perform, and it can pay well.

Bear in mind, there aren’t thousands of adapted athletes in the world. Hundreds is more like it, which means you gotta be good – quite good – to snag a professional contract in your sport of choice.

It is more than possible however, and here are three adaptive athletes who’ve made their professional careers a reality.

Video #1:  Wheelchair Racer Amanda McGrory

When you think of wheelchair racing, often one name comes to mind – Tatyana McFadden – the wheelchair racer from Boston. However we wanted to profile Amanda McGrory, another 25 year old wheelchair racer who’s gone pro from the east coast, from Philadelphia, who began racing in since 2006.

Since beginning to race, Amanda has landed some impressive victories. She won a gold medal in wheelchair racing in the London Paralympics in the 5000 m and she won the New York Marathon in 2011.

And while she was at it, Amanda also snagged a full ride to the University of Illinois in wheelchair-basketball. Who says wheelchair athletics don’t pay? Her sponsors are both Invacare and Supracore.

Watch: Amanda McGrory’s rise in the world of wheelchair racing

Video #2: Wheelchair Bodybuilder Dan Smith

Meet Britain’s only professional wheelchair bodybuilder Dan Smith. In 2006, Dan was in an accident at work that left him a paraplegic. It wasn’t until 2008 when he finally returned to the gym and when he did, a friend challenged him to get back into shape so he could do a guest spot at a bodybuilding show.

Dan got so into shape for his friend’s show that afterwards he was invited to the Wheelchair World Championships in Poland in 2009, and unbelievably – he won. Dan became the first amateur wheelchair bodybuilding champ in the IFBB.

Not surprisingly, a year later in 2010 Dan turned pro, and his current sponsor is Xenca Revitalise Collagen supplements. Check him out below!

Watch: Xenca Talks to Dan Smith World Champion IFBB Wheelchair Pro Bodybuilder

Video #3:  Adaptive Motocross Rider Ricky James

Ricky James, a T6-7 paraplegic and a previous SCI Superstar we’ve profiled, is one of the few paralyzed professional motocross riders that competes with able-bodied riders. Injured in 2005 as a teenager, the-then professional Ricky James was determined to remain pro, and remained pro he has.

First, he began riding again on his old bike a year exactly after his injury, and he’s currently riding a modified KTM 450 SX-F bike. Since going pro again, Ricky has competed in SCORE International Baja 500, a truck race, the X Games and he’s working towards becoming an elite Ironman athlete in their World Championships.

Currently – Ricky is sponsored by both SoCal SuperTrucks and Rockwell.

Watch: Paralyzed Action, Adventure, & Motor Sports Athlete Ricky James

The point of this post – to prove that an awesome athletic career does not have to end because you can no longer walk. Yeah it’s no fun being paralyzed and it may be quite different competing post-injury, but it’s definitely better than no career at all, and we know each athlete above would agree.

Who is your favorite professional adaptive athlete?

Photo courtesy of Dylan Coulter

Watch the videos!

Pro wheelchair racer Amanda McGrory

Pro world champion wheelchair bodybuilder Dan Smith

Pro motocross rider Ricky James

SCI Superstar: Ricky James

One word has been driving Ricky James since he broke his back – perseverance (and he has the entire thing tattooed up his left leg in huge cursive font).

If you know motocross, you probably know who Ricky James is (and maybe knew about him before injury). He was a rising 15 year old star in the motocross world who started racing at the age of 2 (they called him a “prodigy on two wheels”). He was even home-schooled so he could keep up with his crazy schedule.

Motocross is in Ricky’s blood and always will be. That is why after his accident (he hit a dirt embankment racing Amateurs Nationals in Lake Whitney, Texas), he was the last guy to ever think of wiping his hands clean of the sport he grew up sleeping and breathing. Are you kidding? “Motocrossers are a different breed,” says Ricky.

Why he’s fearless

Ricky became paralyzed after breaking his spine in half (check out this insane x-ray of his injury on his site under “What is SCI?”) at the T6-7 level, but that didn’t stop him. Thanks to a family friend who was also paralyzed, after only five weeks after his injury Ricky was back out at the track with friends. He is still so alive, still so strong (both physically and mentally) and has energy that just won‘t quit. I love that Ricky refuses to let his injury stop him from doing what he loves. In layman’s speak? He’s on the same bike.

Ricky uses a steering stabilizer for more balance, electronic shifting and an electronic start to make up for the use of his legs; and those mods are NOT cheap. Thanks to his sponsors, including SoCal Trucks, Colours Wheelchairs and SHOEI, he has the coolest set-up any adrenaline-addict paraplegic could dream of (and also thanks to help from the paralyzed motocross experts @ Para Pros Racing).

Ricky was back racing within months of his injury, and is doing a lot more on top of straight motocross. He also races motokarts (“adaptive motox;” a new sport created by the X-Games, which he was in in 2008) and off-road trucks. “I don’t want to be known as the wheelchair guy that races,” he says. “I want to be known as that really fast guy who happens to be in a wheelchair.”

What’s next

Finally healed up after two riding injuries (yep they still happen. He took a several month break after dislocating his shoulder), Ricky did something that always impresses me whenever I hear of a wheeler doing it – completing an Ironman triathlon. He went to Lake Placid, NY on July 20th to complete in his second (yup second) Ironman triathlon.

His first Ironman was in 2008 in Kona, Hawaii. Ironman triathlons are insane acts of endurance, requiring entrants to run/push a marathon (26.4 miles), swim 2.4 miles and bicycle/hand-bicycle 112 miles. Ricky is rocking his still-there abilities to their core.

As a representative for Life Rolls On, racing any way he can still get it (including NASCAR trucks) and living the beautiful life in Oceanside, Cali (a tad jealous of that one), at 23, Ricky has made his way through the wilderness of his youth in a beautifully refined piece (I‘m sure to many people‘s surprise). He just refuses to quit, and I, and the motocross world, love him for it.

Watch the videos!

NBC Sports profiles Ricky James (great interview with his parents, beautiful clip)
Fun interview with Ricky James (with an Aussie reporter) about Ironman (and see his multiple leg tattoos)
Ricky James talks about his accident and how he can still ride (from Transworldmx)
Cool clip of Ricky James in a PSA from Life Rolls On