Paralyzed former NZ pro - inspirational speech

Nov 26, 2000
Taken from

Not often do you meet someone who has been to hell and back but still remains as positive about life as Kiwi Pro Motorcrosser Niki Urwin. His life was thrown into turmoil less than a year ago when he crashed his Kawasaki at the Wonthaggi round of the Thumper Nationals and is now confined to a wheelchair.

While doctors only gave him a five percent chance of survival, he was determined to not only survive but to become an inspiration to all who know him.

While Niki Urwin may seem to be embarrassed by the attention or being labeled an 'Inspiration' it's his maturity beyond his years that keeps on astounding anyone who has the opportunity to hear him speak. At this years Australian Motocross awards he stunned the crowd with his recount of the crash that ended his career. Below is a transcript from the night.

" Well, the last twelve months have been alright. The first three months I slept through it but just to give you a rundown of the injuries I had. Obviously when I crashed that wasn't how I got hurt.

I went down with the bike and had my hand on the throttle as well as the clutch. The first rule in Thumpers is to not let the thing stall or it's a long walk back with the KLX250. So I kept the hand on the clutch and unfortunately Luke Cunningham came around the corner and hit me in the back. He hit me and pushed my chest onto the handlebars - the first guy to successfully fold a set of Renthal twin walls in half with his chest. And the impact of that bent Luke's front wheel.

The result of that was I broke every rib in my body, I broke three and vertebrae in my back. There are six lobes in your lungs, I'd punctured the two lobes in my right lung, and one lobe is fine. My left lung was torn completely in half. My left lung fell off my windpipe to the bottom of my chest cavity.

So pretty much I was in a bad state when I was at the track. They air lifted me from here (Wonthaggi) to the Alfred Hospital and at that stage they didn't know the extent of my lung injury and then pretty much I freaked them out there and they said no you're not going to die here so they sent me to the Austin Hospital who was the specialist spinal unit in Melbourne.

They were pretty scared when they got hold of me. First thing they said was that my spinal injury wasn't a concern to them, they said, "That's it you're paralyzed but we're here to save your life."

With that torn lung there's only four people in the world that have received that injury. The other three were through car crashes. Because they've never come across anything that's got enough force that can tear a lung off. The other three people didn't survive that injury so I'm pretty lucky to be here today.

Thankfully my mum and dad flew over on the Monday morning with the doctor's telling them that I had less than a 5% chance of survival and to make arrangements to take my body back home.

So sitting here today as a paraplegic in a wheelchair I don't think Oh my God what have I lost, I think Oh my God I'm still sitting here today. I can still go to a race track, still see the sun come up in the morning, I think that makes it all the easier. If I'd tripped and fallen down some steps and lay there and suddenly you've lost so much it makes it a lot harder.

So to have three weeks out of your life where you're lying in hospital not knowing whether you're going on. Breathing through a machine that goes in through your windpipe. The machine takes a breath for you for the first two weeks then it assists your breathing in the third.

When I stopped to think that's what Jamie Brockman is going through overseas and again he's in a different country doing the same thing. In a lot of ways he's a lot worse because the height of his break. It's something that really sort of affects me when you hear things like that and guys like Pip Byron.

So I know where they've been and they've got a battle ahead but it's a battle we as Motocrossers we can face because everything we learn on the track. That race where you loose your back brake but you carry on finishing. The race where you crash, break your clutch perch off but you bump your bike, you bump start and you finish it.

All those things make you tougher in your brain and that's how you get through. A lot of people say I think you use the word inspirational and that kind of sits heavy on me. I don't feel like an inspiration, I just feel like a Motocrosser who did what they had to do. I think in this world the crime is not getting knocked down, the crime is not getting back up again.

So I got back up, this is it, this is me and I'm quite comfortable in my wheelchair, I can still get around, I can get on a four-wheeler and have a whole lot of fun. My life has moved on. It's hard when I come back to the track. Today was pretty hard, not so much to come back to Wonthaggi because this is where I got hurt. But it's hard because I want to be on the start line.

It's hard because I never did get to knock those King brothers off - I always wanted to beat them. I think I beat D.K in a race back in '96 when he got stuck in the gate. But I'll take that. I think I almost beat Shayne in qualifying at the New Zealand MX champs last year, so almost, that's good enough for me. There's a bit of unfinished business but I think back to the memories that I had. It was only two years I had but it's probably the greatest two years of my racing career. I came over with a suitcase to the first round and things were hard, this was my dream.

I managed to make something for myself racing here. Although I never won any titles I really felt like I belonged.

I enjoyed my time. I just loved it more than anything else in the world. To those top guys out there, if you think your bikes not running well, it's a hard day, you know it's raining I shouldn't get up and go racing, that's not hard mate.

Getting up in the morning and taking two hours to get changed, have a shower and go to the toilet, that's hard. So if you ever need some motivation to go training or to chase your dreams that's what it's like.

If someone walked up to me and offered me a KLX110 and paid me five bucks to turn up on the startline, man I do that. I'd give anything to have that again. I guess that's all I can say is to chase your dreams and go after it cause I still do that.

I've got a dream to race go-karts and dam I might get that Australian title that I was searching for in Motocross,"

Niki concluded. Niki went onto to explain his life back out on the racetracks driving his Rotax 125cc sprint kart.

When Niki had finished the crowd rose in rapturous applause at one mans ability work with the cards he has been dealt.