After years of torture, countless trips to surgery and nearly losing his leg, there’s no doubt that Ian Hutchinson deserves his miracle man status. The sheer grit and determination mixed with unwavering positivity and innate ability to spank a motorcycle are all traits clearly evident in Hutchy, but what about recovering from paralysis and claiming on a podium?
Talan Skeels-Piggins is one up from a miracle. I have no idea what this elaborate progression is called. Probably superhuman. On the 8th of October this year, Talan finished 3rd in the MRO600 class on a Suzuki GSX-R600 at Brands Hatch Indy to become the first ever paraplegic racer on an able-bodied podium.
“It was a huge boost to my confidence which had been completely destroyed, along with my old bike, when I crashed at Craners during the first meeting of the season. It took a long time to recover from the broken bones (foot, knee, pelvis and sternum), and so was a great way to end the season.”
Rewind 13 years to 2003, Talan was knocked off his Fireblade and into oncoming traffic, which consequently led to paralysis from the chest down and was given a 30% chance of merely surviving. Such life-changing injuries are, understandably, too much for some. But ever since release from hospital all those years ago, Talan has gone onto achieve extraordinary things: competing at the Paralympics for TeamGB as a downhill skier, running a charity that allows disabled riders the chance to ride a bike again, become the world’s first paraplegic motorcycle racer and campaigning for others to follow suit.
His crash at the beginning of the season certainly wasn’t his first as a motorcycle racer. Being permanently attached to his bike has its obvious downfalls, and Talan had a huge one at Assen after getting rag-dolled as the bike cartwheeled, which resulted a badly broken leg and additional complexities.
Does he ever think, ‘fuck it, what’s the worse that can happen’ after going through what he’s been through, and ride beyond the comfort zone? “I thought that at the start of the season when I went from 35th to 7th in three corners at Donington. It then ended up with me breaking my sternum, pelvis, foot and knee! I wanted to compete where I should be, rather than starting at the back of the grid. Got a bit carried away with the moment and paid a heavy penalty. However, it’s not going to stop me from going hard again, I just need to be more mindful of when to go fast!”
Talan’s life is far from pain free. A spread of meds is required just to keep things manageable and he also has trouble regulating his body temperature. For safety reasons, he has to start from the back of the grid in every race, and his feet are fastened to the bike via clips. We’ll be making a video with this inspirational legend very soon.