Wickens, rehab, and the impossible
Some say that the greatest comeback in sports history is Tiger Woods’ latest win at the Masters. Some say it’s the Cubs’ win at the 2016 World Series. I’m sure a lot of others have something else in mind.I say we haven’t witnessed it yet.
I say it’s GOING to be the comeback of Canadian IndyCar driver Robert Wickens. For those of you that don’t know what IndyCar is, it’s basically NASCAR but with longer, sleeker, cars and a hell of a lot more speed, sometimes well over 200 miles per hour. IndyCar is also home to all of racing’s Superbowl: the Indy 500. A grueling 500-mile race ran every year the day before Memorial Day. Racers from other disciplines will strap into an IndyCar just for the 500.
For those of you who don’t know who Robert Wickens is. .. He’s a badass. Plain and simple. A badass.
Robert was catastrophically injured in a horrific crash at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, one of the most dangerous tracks in IndyCar, and in my opinion, all of racing. (which, by the way, IndyCar no longer races because of this incident. The track is also needlessly dangerous in my opinion but that’s a whole other blog post. ), sustaining a T4 spinal cord injury. Most people would have felt sorry for themselves, but badass Robert did something amazing.
He got to work. And trust me, it’s a lot of work. I know because I have cerebral palsy (CP). Specifically spastic quadriplegic CP. For those of you who don’t what that is, it’s basically a condition where your muscles and brain hate each other. Google it.
Although the origins of our injuries are different, we both have to go through a very similar rehab program in order to learn how to function. Not just walking, but basic things like going to the bathroom or getting dressed. Walking is way down on the list.
Rehab is hard. Really hard. Imagine training for the Olympics every day for years and years every day. For years. But you have to train twice as the other athletes. Every single day.
Now, because I have had CP since birth, I’ve had to go through some form of rehab since, well, birth. But let’s just say I was well… less than enthusiastic about it as a younger person and teen. I would do well in therapy but doing exercises at home? Forget it. I guess I watched too much of The Bachelor and thought I was going to marry a rich dude. I also internalized ableism, but that’s a whole other blog. You see, my parents and rehab team begged me to no avail to do most of this as a young person and teen because with CP the older you get, the harder it is to gain function. Fast forward to 2018, I wasn’t watching the infamous race where Rob crashed (thank God) but I remember hearing about it through social media. Then, sometime later, I somehow found a Youtube video of a piece IndyCar did about his story. From the first words he spoke, one thing was clear. He will race again. He can’t let it go
And frankly, I can’t either. It took Robert Wickens some time to get me off my butt. But he did.
And we’re completing the greatest comeback ever. At the same time. To be clear, he hasn’t said he intends to try and race the 500 again, only that he intends to return to some kind of racing, even if he only does one more IndyCar race and then move on to some other kind of racing, but I"m pretty damn sure he will.
So when Robert Wickens wins the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500, we’ll be crossing the finish line together. Some may say it’s impossible. I say you just haven’t seen it yet.