Wheelchair motocross, also known as WCMX, is an extreme sport where athletes use a wheelchair to perform tricks and stunts on skate park ramps that are adapted from skateboarding and BMX. These stunts include jumps, slides and flips. Each trick requires a lot of strength and stamina, so it is ideal for those who are athletic. The sport has gained popularity in recent years, even reaching worldwide audiences through performances by professional athletes who travel to skateparks all over.
As wheelchair motocross is not a sport for delicate equipment that should be handled with care, performers opt to use a specialized manual wheelchair, rather than a traditional manual wheelchair or a power wheelchair. Use of the ramps and falls that you will experience from performing tricks and stunts will take a toll on your mobility device. The specialty chair is made up of lighter weight materials and a full suspension frame that protects the user’s legs, racing shocks and wheels. In addition to the full suspension frame, other safety precautions include using gloves and a bicycle helmet.
Like many sports, wheelchair motocross requires a lot of practice. Building up strength is one of the most important factors in successfully performing stunts. When preparing to perform a trick, it is important to work on gaining momentum by pumping your arms. This can be done through significantly distancing yourself from the jump.
Another natural part of wheelchair motocross is falling. Because it takes time to build up the strength and stamina required to perform different stunts, chances are that you will experience falling. Falling doesn’t mean you should stop trying and give up. It just means that you are at the exact point where even the most popular WCMX athletes started, having to get back up and try again.
Aaron Fotheringham, also known as, "Wheelz”, was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth and has been using a wheelchair since. The inspiration for wheelchair motocross started at a skatepark with his older brother, a BMXer, leading Aaron to be the father of wheelchair motocross. Fotheringham, who was eight years old at the time, was immediately interested in BMX and wanted to participate, asking his brother to push him.
After several attempts at performing stunts in a wheelchair, as well as going through a couple of wheelchairs, he sent a wheelchair company a video and they decided to sponsor him. Due to his previous wheelchairs’ heavy-weighted frames, they couldn’t handle a beating from the park. This was resolved when he got a custom-made wheelchair that is lightweight, made mostly out of titanium. Additional modifications to his chair include the front wheels being replaced with smaller skateboard-style wheels, the back wheels made of a stronger, more durable rubber, reinforced with heavy duty spokes and the addition of a suspension system. His goal is not only to participate in something that he enjoys, but he also hopes to break the stigma on wheelchairs, usually associated with limiting a person or certain stereotypes.
Another athlete making an impact in the world of wheelchair motocross is Katherine Beattie. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and loved sports, participating in surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding until she went through surgery to lengthen her hamstrings. This caused a lack of strength and balance in her legs, which resulted in use of a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop her from participating in sports. Beattie was the first female rider to do a backflip in a wheelchair. Now being viewed as a role model for many women with disabilities, she has been joined by other women in WCMX that perform around the country.