An ex professional motocross rider has no regrets over his career – despite a failed trick leaving him paralysed from the chest down for life.
Cal Werner, 28, worked as a freestyle motocross rider for four years before a horrific accident forced him to retire at just 27.
He missed the landing ramp during a jump for the closing act of a circus show in June 2019, and fell 30ft – breaking three vertebrae.
Cal insists he has no regrets regarding his short lived career despite being left paralysed from the chest down for the rest of his life.
He said: “I don’t regret riding or choosing it as a career choice – I did this job from the time I was 23 til I was 27 and loved every minute of it.
“I got into freestyle motocross because my favourite part of racing was the jumps and freestyle is all about jumping.
“I made so many memories on the road with my friends, and my best friends that I have now are people I met through my career so I’ll never regret that.
“If anything, I just regret saying yes to riding that event.
“But I’ll always be thankful for the memories and for being able to do what I loved for a living as long as I could.”
Cal was 22 when he started to learn how to perform tricks on his bike and within one year, he had turned his hobby into a career.
His job would vary day by day with Cal waiting by the phone with his suitcase ready for a call from a freestyle event promoter to tell him when and where he needed to be.
Cal, who now lives in Buffalo, NY, would perform at state fairs, monster truck shows, circuses, or riding demonstrations.
He would practice with other riders jumping the ramp and performing tricks to get comfortable at each show but was always aware of the risk his job carried.
Cal recalls: “Every practice was a little bit nerve racking because every location was a little bit different and that first jump was always the hardest.
“I was always a little nervous every time I rode, sometimes more than others depending on how the events were set.
“Jumping too far or too short can result in a trip to the hospital so you had to land just right every time you hit the ramp.
“There are so many factors of jumping that any little thing can make the job more dangerous such as wind, rain, how much space you had to get speed for the jump or how much space you had to stop after landing.
“I knew what could happen if the jump went wrong but I loved riding so much that I was willing to take that risk of getting hurt to do what I loved.
“I tried not to think about what would happen if I crashed but how awesome it would be when I landed safely.
“After I had a couple of serious injuries, my parents voiced that they were concerned and that they prefer I choose a different career.
“I understood that no parent wants to see their kid get hurt but I told them that it is what made me happy and I was okay with getting injured.
“I was okay with broken bones but unfortunately was never prepared for the injury that I’m currently dealing with.”
In June 2019, Cal was performing in a two night show for a circus, taking on the ramp as part of the closing act.
The first night of the show saw Cal perform his tricks perfectly but disaster struck on the final night.
Falling 30 feet in the air, Cal broke three vertebrae after missing the landing ramp.
One of the vertebrae hit his spinal chord and he has been left paralysed from the chest down.
Cal spent a week in the hospital before heading to a therapy centre to recover for two months.
Paralysed for the rest of his life, Cal has struggled with depression as he adjusted to life in a wheelchair.
He said: “After I got out of the therapy centre I thought that the battle would be mostly physical but the mental struggle is much harder.
“I went from being a professional athlete traveling the country to sitting in a chair wondering what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.
“I’ve always been a very active person, I’ve never been one to sit around so being stuck in a wheelchair is so hard for me – it’s a whole new world of struggles.
“I’ve battled depression and currently still am, it’s hard not to feel bad about myself and I still feel defeated and like there’s no hope sometimes.
“I never wanted to be “that guy in the wheelchair” – I always wanted to be something great, and I was, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be great in the wheelchair too, it will just have to be in a different way.
“What I do to keep a positive attitude towards my struggles is I know I’m stuck in the wheelchair no matter what and being mad or angry about it is not going to get me out of the chair, it’s just going to make things worse so I might as well make the best of the situation I’m in.
“I will always fight to be able to walk again one day and I’ll never be okay with being in a wheelchair but while I’m stuck in it, I’ll try my best to stay positive.
“I know I will have my days where I will struggle more but those are the days I will look to family and friends to help me through mentally.”