Wheelchairs and ice racing: Kamloops man lives his life full throttle

Stu Wymer says his hand controlled ATV allows him the freedom to go out and ride with friends.
Image Credit: Fat Kid Photography www.fatkidphotography.ca

'YOU CAN'T GET THAT ADRENALIN IN ANYTHING ELSE'

KAMLOOPS – Studded tires, wide-open throttles and high octane racing has been a part of Stu Wymer's life for a very long time.

He started racing at six years old, when most of us finally mastered riding a bike without training wheels. 

"He was a going concern at that age," his mother, Joan Wymer says with a laugh. "The racing scared me. Especially motocross, at times. He had no fear and he started really young. When he was three he would ride his tricycle off our sundeck."

For the last 25 years, Joan has helped out at the Stake Lake ice races. Joan waits in her car, collecting $5 per person for tickets to watch the races.

"When he was young, he just loved it, even then. They are supposed to do one lap and their race is finished. He'd finish his lap and go line up at the start line right away because he wanted to go again. He'd sit there on his little bike, just waiting, even though the next one wasn't for another hour or so," Joan says.

Off-road, on-road, ice racing, you name it, he competed in it. Stu ice raced competitively for 24 years. He competed in the open pro and 250 pro class. Stu wasn't getting participation medals, he was placing. He came in fourth place in the open pro class and second in 250 class in the Western Canada races. 

His life changed in 2007 when he was involved in a workplace accident. He's now a C6 and C7 quadriplegic.

"Quads technically aren't even supposed to lift their hands against gravity," Stu says, lifting his arms.

Joan says Stu spent six weeks in a coma at Vancouver General Hospital after his accident. He also contracted meningitis while is was in a coma.

"That was scary, definitely. When he was under, were just watching machines. The machines would go off and the staff would come in and bang on his chest. At that point you aren't worried, you're just going," Joan says.

After coming out of the coma, he went to rehab at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver for seven months. The accident changed his life, but Stu didn't let it change him.

"He was always in good spirits. He thought, 'well it happened, so what can I do? Let's go.' He ordered his first Polaris before he got his wheelchair," Joan says.

Now Stu races a stock Polaris Ace single seat 900 rubber class ATV. It doesn't have the spiked tires like the ice racing bikes have.

"It's more fun to go full rubber and have it drift sideways on the ice. It's just as fun to go sideways around a corner," Stu says with a grin.

The quad is equipped with full hand controls.

"It gives you independence of just being able to go and ride with the guys, there's no wheelchair slowing you down," Stu says.

Along with racing, he's involved in a handful of competitive sports. Basketball, tennis, rugby, golf, sit skiing and waterskiing.

"I'm not a sit at home and do nothing kind of person," Stu says.

Joan says she's proud of her son for never giving up on his passions after the accident.

"He doesn't feel sorry for himself. So many people will spend the rest of their lives feeling sorry. I work with a lot of people who won't try anything because something has happened to them. They miss out on a lot of things," Joan says.

For anyone looking to participate in adapted sports or racing, there are plenty of local resources available.

"We are all about community involvement. You can ask anyone any question. We run coffee sessions through Spinal Cord Injury B.C. There's no wrong answers or questions. Why not ask someone who's already experienced it, rather than trying to teach yourself? Don't reinvent the wheel, but you can alter the wheel," Stu says.

Looking ahead, there are three more rounds of ice racing at Stake Lake.

"Other than that, I'm just waiting for the dirt," he says.

Whatever lies on the track ahead, racing will undoubtedly be a big part of his life for years to come.

"You can't get that adrenalin from anything else you do. It's hard to explain. You can be riding, having fun and messing around with your friends and the feeling when the flag drops, it's a totally different ball game," Stu says.

Stu Wymer racing his stock Polaris Ace 900 rubber class ATV at the 2017 Stake Lake ice races.
Stu Wymer racing his stock Polaris Ace 900 rubber class ATV at the 2017 Stake Lake ice races.
Image Credit: Fat Kid Photography www.fatkidphotography.ca

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