2018 WCMX World Championships
By Laurita Tellado from The Laurita Spina Bifida Project
Jerry Diaz and Tony “Jimmy Wheelz” Torres are no strangers to adrenaline. Both men are WCMX athletes who routinely shred ramps and defy the laws of physics for fun– all while riding their wheelchairs.
WCMX, an extreme sport described as a cross between skateboarding and dirt-biking for wheelchair users, was a term first coined by one of its pioneer athletes, Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham.
But Diaz, 31, and Torres, 41, are veterans of the sport in every sense of the word. They are both competing this Friday at the 2018 WCMX and Adaptive Skateboarding World Championships, and Affordable Medical LLC is sponsoring Diaz’s and Torres’ participation. Both gentlemen took time out of their hardcore schedules to chat with Affordable Medical about their favorite moments out on the ramp, the biggest challenges they face, how the disability community has responded to their unique sports niche, and their plans to keep increasing children’s participation in WCMX in Florida.
What made you want to get involved in WCMX?
Jerry Diaz: I’d seen a video of Aaron Fotheringham doing a backflip [in] his wheelchair and thought it was the coolest thing, and thought it would be fun to try someday.
Tony Torres: I’ve always been a trickster, but I had seen a video of Aaron “Wheelz Fotheringham,” who also has spina bifida, land a backflip. Watching that inspired me to seek out more information and see how I could get involved. In 2014, with the help of family and friends, we were able [to] raise the funds to purchase my custom Box Wheelchair. I quickly found a large WCMX community from all [over] the world when I began attending the World Championships out in Texas.
How long have you been involved in competing in WCMX sports?
JD: This year will be my third year competing. But I honestly don’t like the competition aspect of the sport. I just enjoy to ride with everyone.
TT: I’ve been competing and training since 2014. My first world championship was 2016 and [I] have been attending them since.
What are some of the reactions you’ve received from people who’ve watched you compete, particularly from young people with disabilities?
JD: Most reactions are of them being pretty stoked [by] a trick I landed. The little dudes that are in wheelchairs starting off in the sport get pretty excited and I see them on their own practicing moves I do. It’s an awesome feeling to see that.
TT: Since I started this journey, it’s been one of my missions to help the little ones see what they can do. With the help of athletes like Jerry and me, organizations, nonprofits, and businesses like Affordable Medical, we have been able to help and see kids with disabilities flourish. They gain more confidence and see the world in [a] new and exciting way. The world becomes a skatepark and obstacles are meant to be jumped over. It’s awesome seeing their smiles, seeing that they were able to overcome their fear and ride. Jerry and I teach them the basics and they ride off from there. It’s a great feeling to mentor the next generation. If I can do that for the rest of my life, then I’ll believe I did something worthwhile.
Can you describe a favorite moment for you from a time you participated in WCMX?
JD: I’d say when I landed a backflip. I [had] been wanting to do [that] for years and finally gave it a shot. I landed it on the fifth try.
TT: There are so many great moments, it’s hard to choose. I just participated in [a] fitness event by Me & U Fitness Academy, a “Wheelchair Fitness Rodeo” where we show folks in chairs how to get through obstacles, learning vital maneuvering and chair skills that not only help in the WCMX world, but in everyday life. [It was] really fun and really cool as well. However, I landed one of my biggest tricks to date, by jumping off a launch ramp and catching some nice air. The folks there loved it.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
JD: Not getting hurt!I tend to get a little too excited when competing and try to go [as] big as possible. I’ve ended up with several dislocated shoulders and a broken rotator cuff. But that’s just part of the sport.
TT: For me, it has to be [having] spina bifida. It is such an unpredictable condition, that I’m not sure what [it can do] next. [It] takes on a life of its own and can change my plans quickly and sometimes for long periods of time. I’ve had good years, but then there are the bad ones. [I] just do my best not to focus on those and push through. It’s funny, because I land in the hospital more from spina bifida, than [from] performing extreme tricks in my chair.
What’s next for you after this?
JD: I’d like to just continue having little skate clinics so more kids can get involved. Teaching others how to do this sport is important. They will be the next generation to keep this sport alive when the old dudes like me retire.
TT: Well, right after the championships, I’m attending Life Rolls On in Georgia. I will be also working with Me & U fitness Academy and ASF Adaptive Sports to form programs for people who want to get involved in the sport. From young to old, we will have something for everyone. We are also working hard to bring a Regional Competition to Florida at the newly built St. Pete Skatepark. It’s a major goal to get that going by the end of the year.
What would you like people to know or take away from your experiences?
JD: To adapt and conquer, and never give up! Life is all about mistakes. And if you don’t try, that’s when you fail.
TT: Everyone falls. We all have obstacles in our lives. I believe that with [the] right attitude, we can fall over and over, and always be able to get up. It’s how we look at it that makes a difference. When you fall down, get up and push back harder.