By AISLING MCENTEGART
Spinal cord injuries have prematurely ended the careers and permanently altered the lives of many professional and amateur athletes. With long term disabilities ranging from limited motion capabilities to full blown paralysis, spinal cord injury research gives hopes of recovery to those affected.
The recent Wings For Life World Run in Sunrise, FL was attended by a number of successful athletes, representing a variety of disciplines to show their support and help raise money for spinal cord injury research. With all proceeds going straight to the cause, every penny raised made a difference.
One of the athletes in attendance was Olympic bronze medallist and three time X Games winner Nick Goepper. Goepper was enthusiastic about participating in the run for the second year in a row and excited to have a chance to demonstrate his support for this worthy cause again.
“To be able to come out today and get a lot of people hyped about this case is a cool opportunity. It feels empowering,” said Goepper.
Post race, Goepper was the picture of enthusiasm and happy to reveal he beat his time from last year’s race. The chance to get together with his friends while contributing to something meaningful added to his satisfaction at participating in the event.
“The race today was amazing, I had such a fun time. The start and finish had to be the best part of the race. You’re there with all your boys and the gun goes off and you run as hard and a fast as you can,” said Goepper. “I beat my record from last year so my Wings For Life [personal record] was set today and next year I’m going to try beat it again,” said Goepper.
The hugely successful event was sponsored by Red Bull who played a key role in encouraging so many well known athletes, like Goepper to help further this cause. Goepper’s involvement with Red Bull started a few years ago as a result of his sporting successes.
“I got involved with Red Bull through skiing. I’ve been with them for about three years and Red Bull is a part of this charity run, Wings For Life and they have been for a couple of years now. I think it’s really great to be part of a company that backs charity organization like this,” said Goepper.
This race appealed to a wide range of people due to the fact there is no set distance. Participants simply run or walk as far as they wish. This persuades a larger demographic of people to partake, as often the thought of running a full marathon can be intimidating.
“The format of this event is really unique and that sets it apart from others because you are not running a set distance, you are running as far as you possibly can. It’s like an internal battle with yourself to see how far you can go,” said Goepper.
Speaking about his own sport, Goepper ‘s passion for skiing was clear. He started skiing at a very young age, making the sport is one of the central aspects of his life. His dedication and constant hard work has paid off with his many noteworthy wins.
“My mom took me skiing when I was five years old and got me into lessons and I just started seeing people in the park doing flips and stuff and then I started learning by [watching] them and just progressed from there. “
Through his skiing career, Goepper gets to travel around the globe, allowing him to build friendships with a diverse group of people. As a free style skier, Goepper can express his creativity through the sport.
“My favorite aspect of skiing is the opportunity to travel and hang out with my friends all over the world,” said Goepper. “I love [skiing], I love progressing, I love the creative aspect of it.”
At just 21 years old he is only getting started and many other exciting things are surely in store for the skier. When it comes to talking about his biggest achievements to date, Goepper mentions he has three main highlights from his career so far.
“The one that sticks out in my mind was my first backflip when I was 11 years old. That was one of the best days of my life. The first time I won the X Games was awesome, that was when I was 18 and then the third time I won it was this year and that was another [amazing] day in my career,” said Goepper.
Events like this draw attention to the importance of funding when it comes to finding cures for chronic ailments. Through participating, athletes like Goepper utilize their platform well and help with creating as much awareness about the vital part research plays in developing methods of treating spinal cord injuries.
For those interested in supporting Wings For Life, registration is open for next year’s event. It is through raising awareness, research and solidarity that more advances will be gained in handling spinal cord injury and improving methods of rehabilitation.