By Jamie Umbach — RogersPlace.com
“I take a lot less walks, that’s for sure.”
At first meeting, Nitro Circus athlete Bruce Cook’s humorous, humble and ‘Never Say Can’t’ attitude comes on display when asked how his life changed in January of 2014 following a dramatic crash attempting the first-ever double frontflip on a dirt bike that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“I’ve always kind of been mentally strong with these types of things, but anyone who’s taking a 250-pound dirt bike off a ramp and flying 40-feet into the air has to be – or stupid – in one way or another,” Cook said via Skype to RogersPlace.com.
For most people, losing the ability to walk following an attempt at a world record would ward off any further attempts.
But Bruce Cook and the rest of his Nitro Circus companions aren’t ‘most people’.
The 30-year-old from Toronto, Ont. defied the odds only 10 months after his accident by becoming the first paraplegic athlete to backflip a dirt bike in front of family, friends and thousands of screaming fans. More than four years onward, he’s toured the world and done over 100 shows across North America, Europe and Australia living life to the fullest and enjoying every moment knowing very well that day could’ve been his last on a bike.
Both Cook and dozens of fellow adrenaline junkies ride into Rogers Place later this year on Sunday, October 7 as part of the Nitro Circus You Got This 2018 tour of North America, bringing an extreme and dangerous brand of entertainment that the thrill-seeking entertainers balance every show. No matter how many times they’re able to practice, there’s always the slim possibility that things can go literally, and figuratively, sideways – even more so when attempting a world-first.
“It’s always kind of in the back of your mind,” Cook said. “We’ve lost friends in the sport, so with these world firsts you don’t really know how they’re going to go, honestly. You can’t look at videos and see how the landing was when it hasn’t been done yet, so there’s always elevated risks with things like these.
“If I came away from it with a broken arm or broken leg, it might’ve still been considered a success.”
After months of preparing for the jump during his Nitro Circus debut, Cook misjudged his landing and crashed hard on the ramp despite completing the two frontflips. The impact caused him to bend backwards despite landing on his feet, leading to a broken T11 vertebrae in his spine. Despite emergency surgery, doctors informed Cook he was paralyzed from the waist down and would have to deal with the sobering reality of being confined to a wheelchair.
“It’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to me,” Cook admitted. “Not being able to feel my legs was a terrible feeling, but I was alive.”