Bruce Cook lands first-ever motorcycle backflip by paraplegic

Less than two years after a crash attempting the world’s first double front flip left freestyle motorcyclist Bruce Cook paralyzed from the waist down, the Canadian rider came back with an even more historic moment last night at the Nitro Circus Live show in Toronto: the first-ever backflip on a motorcycle by a paraplegic.

“To perform with my Nitro Circus friends again and ride on the world’s biggest action sports stage was incredible,” said Cook in a release. “The energy and support from the fans was unbelievable.”

Cook’s horrific crash in front of a live audience at a Nitro Circus show in Ontario on Jan. 3, 2014, led to the most serious injury in the daredevil tour’s history: After taking off from a ramp purpose-built for the trick, he under-rotated the double front flip, broke his T-11 thoracic vertebra and damaged his spinal cord.

Cook spent the next two months in and out of hospitals and has been rehabilitating at the Project Walk Paralysis Recovery Center in San Diego with the goal of walking again someday.

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Getting back on his bike became an even more immediate goal. Cook was riding again within 10 months of his injury — popping wheelies on his first ride, according to Nitro Circus spokeswoman Lauren Machen — and attempted his first backflips on the modified bike into a foam pit at Nitro Circus founder Travis Pastrana’s house earlier this year.

“Bruce Cook is the man,” Pastrana said in a statement after Wednesday’s feat. “The strength and courage he’s shown is huge. In Nitro Circus, we are all about pushing boundaries and overcoming obstacles in order to reach our goals, and Bruce lives that day in and day out.”

Bruce Cook checks the footage after landing the world's first backflip on a motorcycle by a paraplegic rider on Wednesday during a Nitro Circus Live show in Toronto. Photo courtesy Nitro Circus.
Bruce Cook checks the footage after landing the world’s first backflip on a motorcycle by a paraplegic rider on Oct. 14 during a Nitro Circus Live show in Toronto. Photo: Courtesy of Nitro Circus
After gaining confidence in his ability to make the rotation into the foam pit, Cook was ready to take the trick to a proper landing on the padded resi-foam landing mat used for most of the Nitro Circus stunts. The stakes couldn’t have been higher: Because he is strapped into the modified bike, Cook isn’t able to bail out of tricks in the same way other riders might be able to.

Still, he performed the trick with confidence, to a standing ovation.

“World’s firsts” like this one have become a staple of the boundary-pushing Nitro Circus Live shows and the Nitro Circus TV shows. And, following Pastrana’s lead as one of the first riders to land backflips in competition and the first rider ever to land a double backflip on a motorcycle, upping the flip count has been one of his Nitro Circus crew’s favorite pursuits.

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“At Nitro Circus, we’re all about world’s firsts,” Pastrana has said previously. His own list of accomplishments includes the first double backflip on a motorcycle, which inspired Cook in the first place. “If you get to land a world’s first, it’s not just a spontaneous thing. It’s not a random act. It’s a life commitment.”

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In April, GrindTV profiled Australian rider Josh Sheehan after he landed the world’s first triple backflip on a motorcycle. In July, New Zealand’s Jed Mildon landed the first quadruple backflip on a BMX bike.

“This is now officially the biggest moment in Nitro Circus Live’s history,” said Michael Porra, Nitro Circus CEO and creative director, via press release. “Bruce Cook is part of the Nitro family, and to see him back on the bike doing what he loves is tremendous.”

Missed it? Cook is planning to reprise the trick at each of the tour’s remaining Canadian shows, including a stop tonight at Ottowa’s Canadian Tire Centre and tomorrow at Montreal’s Bell Centre, among others, and at each of the 20 remaining stops on the Nitro Circus Live 2015 North American Tour.

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