TLW: THE BIO ON YOUR WEBSITE SAYS THAT JUST BEFORE ENTERING THE ADULT DIVISION OF PRO BMX RACING YOU SUFFERED A PRETTY SERIOUS BRAIN INJURY. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT AND HOW IT’S AFFECTED YOUR CAREER, LIFE AND GOALS AROUND RACING?
JS: That traumatic brain injury was actually the turning point for me that ultimately made me switch from BMX to MTB, so it was a pretty pivotal event in my life. At first, this concussion didn’t seem much different than any of the other ones I had, but when I started to try to ride again things went downhill, no pun intended. The best way I could describe what I was feeling was like having the worst migraine of your life for two weeks straight. I went back to my concussion specialist and was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS), which is basically the recurring symptoms of a concussion months and even years after it has occurred. These symptoms can be triggered by stress, sickness, or even a seemingly small jolt to the head. Some of the issues I had were loss of taste, lack of peripheral vision, heart rate irregularity, terrible balance, mood changes, lack of motivation, and lots of headaches. I went to physical therapy for 3 months following that diagnosis and was able to get back on my BMX bike for the World Championships where I crashed in the main and got 7th. A couple weeks later, the guys at Hyper asked me if I wanted to come up to Whistler for Crankworx to try out some of the new mountain bikes. I was stoked to go, had an awesome time, and actually got 4th in Pump Track my first year racing it.
After that initial experience of mountain bike competition, I was in a really tough situation. I had been training at the Olympic Training Center for two years prior to the incident, and had my eyes set on turning pro the following year and committing myself to trying to pursue the Olympics in 2020 or 2024. Despite this, many doctors had told me that pursuing BMX at that level was not wise with my head injury due to how risky it is with seven other people on the gate. I made the decision to leave BMX behind and take on mountain biking where if I crash, it is my own fault and I can go at my own pace. I am also sure to wear a helmet that I am confident will keep me as safe as possible at all times, even if I’m just bouncing around in the parking lot.