Paralysed motocross rider Jodie (17) vows to get back on track after meeting biking heroes
A Northern Ireland teenager who was left paralysed after being flung from a motorcycle has been inspired to get back on the track after meeting sporting heroes at the Cornmarket Motorbike Awards show.
Jodie McCaughey (17) was told she will never walk again after fracturing her spine in multiple places during a MCCNI Motocross Championship race on June 24 last year.
But she is holding out for a miracle after being inspired by encounters with motor sport legends including former F1 driver Eddie Irvine, World Superbike Champion Johnny Rea and British Supersport Champion Keith Farmer.
"That night meant so much to me, everyone was just so inspirational and they spent so much time talking to me," Jodie explained.
"These are people I only ever see in the media - I never thought that I would ever meet them let alone get to talk to them.
"They shared their personal stories with me and told me about the challenges they have had to overcome - the main thing I took away from it was the importance of never giving up."
The horrific accident, which happened at the race track in Desertmartin, resulted in the multiple trophy winner being forced to quit the sport she fought so hard to be a part of.
Inspired by her younger brother Martin (12), who competed in his first race when he was just six years old, Jodie quickly became obsessed with life in the fast lane.
"She cried for a whole year asking for her own bike, she had our hearts broke," her mum Denise explained."Eventually her daddy gave in and bought her one for her 13th birthday and that was that, she was stuck on it ever since." Jodie soon swapped her first bike, a used Honda 85, for a brand new KTM and focused on building up her speed.
"I was always pushing myself to keep up with the boys," she recalled.
"I started getting too fast and broke my knee in one accident, then I broke my two femur bones in another - but I always got back on the bike and refused to give up."
But the adrenaline junkie was left devastated following the accident that left her paralysed from the chest down.
She said the force at which she was thrown over the handlebars almost snapped her spine in half.
"The only thing which has kept me going are the words of my surgeon, who said he believes in miracles," she said.
Motocross champion Wayne Garret, who was left paralysed following a 2016 crash, also inspired Jodie while she was in hospital. "He came to see me and he told me everything I need to do - the most important thing I took from it was that I should never give up," she explained.
Mingling with her heroes has made Jodie even more optimistic about the prospect of "living life on an engine".
"You are allowed a quad in the paddock at most race tracks, it would make it easier for me to move around while watching my brother and my friends racing - but if I know that if I can master a quad I will want to race again.
"There's no quad racing for people with disabilities so I'm going to look at getting something sorted out, because if I want to race, I will."
For now, though, Jodie must focus on rehabilitation and building upper body strength.
"As soon as I got home from hospital I bought a yoga mat and weights - I know if I don't exercise my muscles will begin to waste away," she said.
"Right now I'm just fighting to get my strength back."
The young petrol head, who has not been unable to resume her studies since sustaining the life-shattering injury, thanked everyone in her big racing family - including Graeme Irwin, Gordy Crockard and Eugene McManus - for reaching out to encourage her.