Sat, Sep 24, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Former BMX world champion paralyzed in training accident

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia’s Sam Willoughby stands on the podium with his silver medal after the BMX cycling men’s final event at the London Olympic Games on Aug. 10, 2012.

Photo: AFP

Australian former BMX world champion and two-time Olympian Sam Willoughby has been left partially paralyzed after a training accident in the US, with no movement from the chest down.

The 25-year-old, who won silver at the 2012 London Olympics, but could only manage sixth in Rio this year, underwent surgery for fractures to his vertebrae which compressed his spinal cord after a crash near San Diego on Sept. 10, his family said.

“Fortunately, this surgery was successful enough at decompressing his spinal cord and aligning his vertebrae that a second operation for further stabilization was not necessary,” they said in a statement issued through Cycling Australia late on Thursday.

“At this stage, Sam still has no movement from his chest down, but has regained use of his arms and is slowly regaining some sensation in his legs. Sam’s next step is to begin a long road of recovery at a rehabilitation center and while the details are still to be finalized, at this stage it is expected that Sam will be transported to a US-based rehabilitation center in the next few days,” they said.

Willoughby started competing aged six in Adelaide, and burst onto the scene by claiming the junior world championship in 2008.

After another junior world title in 2009, he claimed his first senior world championship in 2012, before winning silver at the London Olympics.

He won the world championship again in 2014, but crashed out of the final last year.

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