story: Camille Coulter photo: Don Walgamuth
X GAMES BOUND TODD THOMPSON DEFIES THE ODDS
He’s been shifting gears since the age of 3, but Todd Thompson of Cottonwood couldn’t have envisioned then being a top contender for the X Games slated for July in Los Angeles.
Thompson, 31, says he’ll strive for nothing short of the gold medal in the Adaptive Supercross Division – adaptive because he races motorcycles with a prosthetic leg.
“I want people to look at me as a role model,” he says. “Going through life with a disability isn’t the end of the world.”
The X Games, which has winter and summer venues, provides a platform for athletes with physical impairments to compete in extreme sports such as SnoCross, surfing and skateboarding.
Thompson will be racing his 450 Suzuki RMZ in the very sport that claimed his leg in 1998. After gaining air on his third consecutive tabletop jump at a Livermore track, Thompson hit the ground so hard that his femur, knee and lower leg were decimated.
“It was sort of a weird day. I didn’t even think I was going (to the race),” he says. “I got there late and missed practice.”
The first race went great that fateful day. Thompson jumped out of the gate and won second place in the first heat, then prepared for his evening race.
According to Thompson, the jumps were well lit that night, but landing in the shadows proved difficult and dangerous. The devastating impact shattered his lower leg when he hit the ground straight-legged while still seated atop his bike.
“Your feet can fall off the pegs all the time. It’s usually not a big deal,” Thompson says. “It didn’t hurt. It just felt weird. I couldn’t get my positioning. I saw a heel instead of toes and I was still on the gas trying to go.”
Complications, multiple surgeries and a lower leg amputation were a blur during his long stay at a Santa Rosa hospital. But even though he lost his right leg, he didn’t lose his passion for the sport.
Thompson says his life got back on track when he met and married Andrea, 31. With that came the joy of fatherhood to daughter Grace, 6, and son Lane, 9 months.
“I’m by no means handicapped or disabled in my eyes, even though other people might see me that way,” Thompson says. “It’s a state of mind. And I’m not going to just sit back. I have my wife, my parents and friends to thank for that.”
His biggest advocates have provided generous gifts: a training bike from longtime friend Jason Burris, a racing bike from his father, time in the gym from Shasta Physical Therapy, sponsorship and promoting by Manny Ornellas at CDG Technology and riding time at a Tehama County race track.
With his bikes, upgraded prosthetic leg and so many loved ones on his side, Thompson says, “Failure cannot be an option.”
When not with his clan, Thompson kicks up dust training at the Endicott family track at Finger Lake MX Park in Red Bluff. A rare place, he says, where he’s been allowed to manipulate the track to hone his performance and gear up for the big event.
“I want to be an ambassador for the sport,” Thompson says of his love for motocross. “Otherwise I wouldn’t do what I do now.” •
On May 29, Todd competed in the Extremity Games in Michigan where he won the X-Games qualifier and brought home a silver medal. You can watch the X-Games on July 29 on ESPN at 3 pm.
To help offset the cost of going to the X-Games, an account has been established in Todd Thompson’s name. Donations are being accepted at Tri-Counties Bank.