By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
Four days after suffering one of the worst crashes you’ll see in a downhill race, ITS-Santa Cruz rider John Waddell remains unconscious in a Quebec City hospital. But according to Waddell’s team director Derin Stockton, the 22-year-old Aussie rider is getting a little better each day and a full recovery is very likely.
“After the crash they did a CAT scan right away and all the signs were good,” said Stockton, who stayed behind to look after his rider while the rest of the pro gravity circuit moved on from Mont-Ste-Anne to Grouse Mountain in preparation for the next stop of the World Cup series, July 12-13. “He hit his head really hard, but when they looked at his pupils they were the same size which is good. He also had two small brain hemorrhages, but that’s normal after an impact like that. The good thing is that it hasn’t gotten worse since them. There’s been no brain swelling and there was no skull fracture.”
Stockton added that doctors have told him that when a person is knocked out like Waddell was, the impact is usually the result of a car accident and that they are typically unconscious for three to five days. But doctors have said that because of the extreme nature of Waddell’s crash, they think he’ll be out for between five and seven days. (For the strong of heart, our friends at Radio Canada actually captured the crashon film. It’s not pretty.)
In the meantime, Waddell, who’s from Perth, has been showing plenty of positive signs, moving his arms and legs during sleep and even looking at people when nurses open his eyes.
“I’ve talked to some doctor friends of mine and [Australian national team coach] Scott Sharples has talked to people at the [Australian Institute for Sport] and they’ve all said that the signs he’s showing are best-case scenario,” Stockton said. “He’s been pushing against the railing on his bed so hard that he actually broke one of the latches. The nurses have been joking that they don’t want to make him mad because they thing he’s going to turn green like the Hulk because he’s so strong.”
The crash that put Waddell in the hospital occurred near the end of his run at the Mont-Ste-Anne downhill, when he carried too much speed into a jump and overshot the landing.
“It was kind of a big camelback more than a tabletop and the lip on it kept getting bigger as the week went on,” explained Stockton. “Johnny hit it going a little too quick and it kicked him and he started going over the front end. As soon as he realized that, he ejected from the bike because that’s what you do, and he has was trying to get his feet down, but he hit home with his head instead.”
Stockton added that the jump measured 48 feet from takeoff to backside, meaning Waddell flew at least 60 feet.
Besides the head trauma, the downhiller’s injuries were minimal, with only a small wrist fracture that doesn’t need to be set, and some scrapes on his shoulder and knee.
Despite the injury to his rider and several other big pile-ups at the same place during the weekend of racing, Stockton wouldn’t point his finger at the course.
“It’s a dangerous sport at times and that’s just racing,” he said. “All the technology on the bikes right now is letting people go very fast, but when something happens the consequences can be big.”
Waddell is one several of talented Australian gravity riders that have recently taken the world downhilling stage by storm. Last year he broke through with his first big-time victory, winning the downhill at the NORBA finals in Mount Snow, Vermont. He was also fifth at the 2002 World Championships at Kaprun.
“He’s a strong, stubborn kid,” said Santa Cruz Bicycles co-owner Rob Roskopp. “I wouldn’t doubt if he comes out of this thing today or tomorrow.”