Who do you consider disabled? asks one extreme sports wheelchair athlete. When life gives you limits, you should push them, says Aaron Fotheringham, who knows all about that: he successfully completed the first ever double back-flip in a wheelchair.
Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham is an 18-year-old wheelchair athlete from Las Vegas, Nevada. Aaron was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord. For Aaron this means his legs don’t work. He is the third of six children, all adopted.
Just last week Aaron, also known as Wheelz, landed the ultimate stunt: a double back-flip in a wheelchair. He recorded it on video in front of a crowd of friends and family.
What does Wheelz have to say about his extreme feat? "I don't even think of myself as disabled or whatever, because I'm not."
He has been encouraged by his parents to do anything he wanted- and that included dozens of landings on his head, face and back until he final perfected the landing he had worked so hard at mastering.
Aaron never let anything stop him. Even as a baby and small child, he did anything anyone else his age could do, he just had to figure out how to make it work for him.
Aaron started riding at skate parks at the age of 8 when his older brother Brian said he should drop in a quarter pipe. He had been going to the park with Brian and their dad for weeks, but Aaron would just watch from behind the fence. The first time was scary, and he fell, but he was never one to give up just because it wasn’t easy. So he tried again. From then on he was hooked.
He has won a few BMX free style competitions, including the 2005 Vegas AmJam BMX finals, but for Aaron that is secondary to the joy of riding and hanging out with friends at the skate parks.
Over the last four years Aaron has challenged himself to try progressively more difficult tricks; carving, grinding, power-sliding, and spinning are just a few of his accomplishments. In 2005, he perfected a mid air 180-degree turn. Then on July 13th, 2006, he landed the first wheelchair back-flip. Since that time he has perfected the back flip, he can do a hand-plant, wheelers and all manners of roll-outs.
Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham
Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham became a worldwide sensation when he landed the first ever backflip on a wheelchair. Today he is the only person to ever land a double back-flip in wheelchair extreme sports.
After posting that “first ever back-flip” on the Internet life has changed for Aaron. With his mother helping with scheduling and information, he has had the opportunity to travel within the US as well as internationally. He has attended summer camps for disabled children as a coach/mentor. He has been featured in magazines, and newspapers, and sports television. He receives and responds to e-mails from all over the world.
He enjoys showing young kids with disabilities that a wheelchair can be a toy, not a restriction. He loves helping younger children learn how to handle their chairs in new and different ways and teaching them a trick or two.
Someday he says he hopes to design “the most wicked” chair in the world.
Aaron has a passion for what he does, not only is it a lot of fun, but he wants to change the world’s perception of people in wheelchairs, as well as helping everyone see their own challenges in a new way. Aaron’s appeal is universal. You certainly do not have to be disabled to be inspired by what he is able to do.
Aaron knows he is an inspiration. At public events, he gladly shares his time with journalists - but not until after he has visited with the kids in wheelchairs who have come to see their hero perform.
In addition to his performances and stunt work, he is learning to weld so he can build extreme wheelchairs for others who might want to participate in the sport.
Aaron has always seen his condition as an opportunity. Because he's been able to have such an impact on so many people - and because he is having so much fun - he doesn't regret having what most would call a "disability."
"If someone came up to me with a magic wand and it was like, 'Do you want to walk?' I'd probably say no," he said, "because why would you want to walk when you can roll?" said the young man named Wheelz.
For more information on Aaron check out his website and read his incredible story and the exciting things he has planned for the future of extreme wheelchair sports.