An Australian athlete who won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, has had his life turned upside down.
Only recently BMX rider Sam Willoughby competed at the Rio Olympics and now he is lying in a hospital bed after a training accident in the United States of America.
His family says he has no movement from his chest down.
Willoughby underwent surgery in California after sustaining fractures to his C6 and C7 vertebrae which severely compressed his spinal cord.
His parents, Colin and Sharon Willoughby, said the 25-year-old had the accident on September 10.
They said surgery was “successful enough at decompressing his spinal cord and aligning his vertebrae that a second operation for further stabilisation was not necessary”.
“Sam still had no movement from his chest down but has regained use of his arms and is slowly regaining some sensation in his legs,” the statement said.
The surgery involved removing the C6 vertebrae and replacing it with a titanium cage.
His C5 and C7 vertebrae were also fused with a plate and four screws, reports ABC News.
Willoughby is expected to be moved into a USA-based rehabilitation centre within days.
Willoughby’s father Colin said his son’s attitude was “incredible”. “Sam will give this rehabilitation process his absolute best shot, he is a professional athlete who has trained to meet goals and he has the biggest of all goals ahead of him,” Colin said.
He crashed at his local track in Chula Vista, near San Diego, and was airlifted to hospital.
His parents said they had received a “huge outpouring of support” from friends, family and fans.
The family have sent up a Road2Recovery webpage to update fans about Willoughby’s progress and collect donations.
Willoughby is also a two-time world champion.
His American fiancee Alise Post who won BMX silver in Rio, said, “We are in the midst of planning our wedding for next year and one of Sam’s goals is to do everything in his power to walk me down that aisle side-by-side as husband and wife, surrounded by his beautiful loved ones, and ready to celebrate a beautiful future with each and every one of you on this journey with him.
“He has an amazing support network around him that is committed to giving him every opportunity for a full recovery. Sam and I have been a team for a long time and when we put our heads together with the support around us, anything is possible.”