Motocross Rider Is on a New Path
Saturday, June 23, 2007
BALTIMORE, June 22 -- A dismayed 6-year-old Katrina Stenberg wheeled over to her father on her hot pink scooter Friday with a problem.
"Daddy, daddy! They tried to take my scooter away!"
"Just don't let them," he replied, and Katrina, pleased with the answer, continued darting between a group of freestyle motocrossers at the Dew Tour's Panasonic Open at the Camden Yards Sports Complex.
"I hope she's not going to ride FMX [freestyle motocross]," said her father, professional freestyle motocross rider Jeremy Stenberg, as Katrina scooted away. "I don't want her to deal with broken bones. I don't care if she rides her dirt bike and stuff like that but let's keep her a girly girl. She's into shopping already."
A look at his tattoos and West Coast swagger and it would be easy to label Stenberg with the "wild child" action sports stereotype that he admits he used to be. But now with a daughter and wife, the 25-year-old is in a new stage of his life.
"I usually think about that before I ride," he said. "I know I've got to keep myself healthy. I've got a family to take care of."
Stenberg, who is known as one of the best back-flippers in FMX, finished second in the inaugural Dew Tour in 2005, the same year he snagged his first "X" Games gold medal for Moto-X best trick. He makes his third appearance on the tour this summer, after rebounding from a gruesome crash in last year's Panasonic Open in Louisville. After the first of two runs in Louisville, Stenberg trailed two riders in the standings and decided to attempt a back-flip on the quarter-pipe during his second run, even though he felt uncomfortable performing the trick. Stenberg hit the jump too fast and peeled away from his 220-pound bike, falling about 35 feet to the packed dirt below.
"That flip should have been nothing for him, it was just a fluke thing. He's is one of the best flippers out there," said Ronnie Faisst, a FMX rider and good friend of Stenberg's. "As soon as he came off the bike, just because of how high he was, we started running down there. I couldn't talk to him, but I could just tell by the look in his eyes he was hurt bad."
The feet-first landing resulted in compound fractures in the tibia and fibula in his left leg and a shattered right ankle. Stenberg spent the next eight months off his dirt bike, four of them in a wheelchair. He hasn't competed since the accident.
"Jeremy's super-impulsive," his manager, Rich Swisher, said. "There's just a small delay between his brain and anything he does and that wheelchair was like being in handcuffs for him."
Stenberg's grateful he didn't hurt himself any worse in the fall, but the months of physical limitation wore on the active California native.
"The only thing I could do was get into my electric wheelchair. It would take me about 10 minutes to get into it, go into the bedroom after banging into 10 walls and lay on the bed," he recalled.
Stenberg, who is nicknamed "Twitch" because he has Tourette Syndrome, said the disorder doesn't bother him when he's riding and that the crash came from putting too much pressure on himself.
"I've met a lot of kids, especially at the Dew Tour, who have had Tourette's and feel like it has held them back," Stenberg said. "I'm out there just to let them know you can do whatever you want to do. You don't have to let Tourette's get in your way."