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John Anderton: If I could get back on a bike I probably would

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John Anderton (left) in action

John Anderton (left) in action

John Anderton with partner Shona

John Anderton with partner Shona

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John Anderton (left) in action

As John Anderton lowers himself into the leather armchair in the corner of his living room, a grimace flashes across his face.

Sitting down these days is no longer a simple task for the 30-year-old but rather one that involves careful manoeuvering.

A year ago this week he almost died after a horrific high-speed crash during an opening practice session of the North West 200.

The Antrim rider was exiting Station Corner heading towards Black's Bridge during the final 600cc qualifier when he clipped the kerb, hit grass and shot over to the other side of the track before hitting a group of trees.

He sustained head and leg injuries, and was in an induced coma for several weeks.

Doctors gave the Antrim rider a 3% chance of survival. They also thought he may never walk again.

But John refused to be beaten and defied expectations. One year on and the former road racer is almost back to his “normal self”.

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The cage which held his right leg in place after the crash was removed in November.

He is acutely aware of how close he came, so much so that when released from hospital last August, he retired from the sport.

But now that Northern Ireland’s biggest road racing event is upon us, he has mixed emotions.

“I miss parts of racing but there are parts of it I don’t.

“It is hard seeing people out there, though. I probably shouldn’t say this because I would get shot, but if I could get back on a bike I probably would. But I wouldn’t put my family through all that again.

“That’s why I am helping Denvir Robb at the moment, who would have been my rival on track. I am just organising bits and pieces for the bike. I will be going up to the North West with him.”

Up until the crash the 30-year-old was sitting third in the Irish championships.

Helping his former rival was his way of keeping involved.

“It’s in your blood, you can’t just turn your back on it. That’s why I am still involved. And I think I will (stay involved) until I get bored or find something else that can give me the same sort of buzz that racing gave me.”

Watching is “not the same thing. Playing a football match doesn’t come close to going 180mph. I have to compensate for the adrenaline buzz”.

That buzz, he says, is the driving force behind every road racer.

“When you are a racer you just don’t think about the consequences,” he said. “You couldn’t race if you thought it would happen to you. Well you could, but you couldn’t be competitive.

“I guess you always think it will happen to someone else.”

However, it did happen to John.

This weekend he must confront that traumatic moment as he revisits the North West 200.

“I have not been back to the scene of the crash,” he revealed. “None of us have. I will have to go

on over and say hello to the trees,” he added with a cautious laugh.

He can’t remember being thrown off his bike into the trees.

He said: “I actually have no memory of the crash. I don’t even remember the day before. My memory is fine now, though. I feel like I did before the accident.”

He knows there is a long road ahead. The damage to his leg means he can no longer ride. He attends physio weekly and accepts that the pain when he bends his knee may be there forever.

But not all adjustments in his life these days are bad. Over the past month he returned to work part-time and he is also planning his wedding.

John proposed to his girlfriend Shona Copeland a few weeks after he was released from hospital.

The pair, who have been together for around three years and have a daughter Megan, had discussed marriage in the past but “never got round” to it.

“I proposed to Shona at her Dad’s 50th last August. We are getting married next July.”

His ‘close call’, he admits, made him realise what truly is important in life.

Road racer unbowed despite bone-shattering career

Throughout his road racing career John Anderton has had his fair share of broken bones.

Not long after he entered the sport more than a decade ago the Antrim man broke his back, then in 2000 he fractured part of his spine.

And a short time after that he broke his humerus in his left arm.

On another occasion he crushed the L1 and L2 vertebrae in his back.

However none have had such a profound and damaging effect as the crash at last year’s North West 200.

John was thrown from his superbike into the path of a group of trees at more than 150mph.

The impact left the father-of-one immobilised for months on end.

He sustained a serious head injury and had to be placed in an induced coma to allow his brain to heal for several weeks.

The high speed crash also shattered his right leg.

John broke his femur, knee cap, tibula, fibula, ankle, foot and his big toe.

To help his leg to heal, a cage had to be attached and screws fitted to his joints. Metal rods also run down his leg.

There are eight screws in his right knee, six screws in his ankle and either six to eight in his foot.

John also has two plates in his right foot.

Following his release from hospital, doctors described his recovery as nothing short of “miraculous”.

John puts this down to his own determination as well as the support he received from medical staff and the love of his family.




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