The Extremity Games: For disabled athletes, it's all about the competition
No doubt you know about the X Games, but you've probably never heard of the Extremity Games. Like the X Games, events include extreme sports such as motocross and skateboarding. But this extreme competition is only for disabled athletes who have lost a limb or have limb differences.
The Extremity Games started in 2006, and in addition to motocross and skateboarding, sports include wakeboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and martial arts. In May there's a motocross elite competition in Michigan; the main event is in June in Texas; and in September the wakeboarding elite competition takes place in Florida. The games are organized by the Athletes With Disabilities Network, which is a subsidiary of Easter Seals-Michigan.
Chris Ridgway is a motocross racer from Apple Valley who competes in both the Extremity Games as well as in adaptive events for disabled athletes in the X Games. Ridgway, who was profiled on the Outposts blog in 2009, elected to have his left leg amputated below the knee in 2002 after suffering substantial injuries while doing motocross (he's been competing since the early 1990s). Before the amputation he used a wheelchair and endured tremendous pain. Although he says he's not in this to be an inspiration to others, he is by default. "This is the hand I was dealt," he says, "and I've just got to deal with it. I'm pretty sure the other athletes feel the same way."
Of his fellow Extremity Gamers, Ridgway says: "They have the most amazing stories that would literally make you cringe, but at the same time they're not saying, 'Woe is me, I'm down in the dumps.' They work hard and they still go through a lot of pain, but they're doing what they want to do. It's the whole atmosphere around the games that I really love."
He treats the Extremity Games no differently from any other competition. For his first event in 2007 he quit his job and trained intensely for seven months so he could come away with the gold medal. And he did. He now has three golds.
"I'm not special," he says. "Anybody can do this."
Ridgway, who wears a prosthetic leg while racing, recommends that those attending the upcoming Extremity Games talk to the competitors: "It's a story about never giving up," he says. "I can't stand people in my life who are quitters, and that's why I like the athletes in the Extremity Games. They just keep trying."
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo: Chris Ridgway on his motorbike during a practice. Credit: Steve Cox