LAST year, Caleb Grothues was told he would never ride again.
The former World Junior Motocross champion was racing in Italy in April when an accident severely damaged his right hand.
“I don’t think I was really aware of exactly what had happened,” the Iluka resident said. “I do remember thinking I needed to get back on my bike and then trying to tell the medical people I wanted to walk, as they were trying to strap me in a stretcher.
“I then remember seeing my dad at the fence waiting for me and the look on his face; I just asked, ‘is it going to be OK, dad?’.”
The then 14-year-old was airlifted to a hospital that specialised in hand injuries.
The doctors recommended amputation but Mr Grothues pleaded with them not to, resulting in six hours of microsurgery.
“We were just told to pray that it works,” Caleb said.
“The injuries I sustained were worse than their initial thoughts so I would have to take it one day at a time.
“All that was said to me was, I would be in hospital for a long time.”
About six weeks later, he was discharged from hospital and flew straight to Brisbane to see another hand surgeon.
“We arrived on my 15th birthday, which was not the present I would have liked but good to be back in Australia,” he said. “The following day, we were told about the significance of my injuries and further surgery was arranged.
“Initially, it had been discussed that I may require more than my fingers amputated; depending on the damage, it could potentially be that I would lose a significant portion of my palm.
“The doctors said I needed to see my hand for myself to help come to terms with why amputation was required.
“By this stage, my hand had been wrapped and bandaged for nearly seven weeks and out of view; and to this day, I still think it was something I didn’t need to see.”
He spent two months in Brisbane undergoing extensive daily therapy but the day he returned to Perth, he was back riding his bike.
“When I say ride, it was on a flat grass paddock and after 10 minutes, I was exhausted,” Caleb said.
“I had lost a lot of weight over the past months and I got tired easily.”
Despite losing the outer two fingers on his right hand, with determination, and strong family and industry support, he was back racing at a national level by the end of September, where he finished second by just one point.
“I was so happy as my goal was to be able to compete,” he said.
“There were not really any restrictions, it was more figuring out what works best.
“I never made any modifications to my bike; I wanted to continue riding as I have always done and knew it would be hard at the start but I knew I could do it.
“The past year and a half has been no walk in the park and there’s been many hard times and setbacks but this is the sport that I am passionate about.”
Now, the 16-year-old is in Russia ready to contest the World Junior Motocross Championships for the fourth time this Sunday.
“I feel good; I have been training in NSW and feel happy with my preparation,” he said.
Caleb will join three other riders under the guidance of team manager Glenn Macdonald, who is now in his fourth year in the role.
They will compete across two classes, with Grothues and Cody Dyce (Victoria) contesting the 125cc and Dante Hyam (NSW) – following the withdrawal of Queenslander Jett Lawrence – and Cody Chittick (WA) racing the 85cc. Riley Dukes has been named a reserve rider.
Macdonald said he was looking forward to mentoring the young riders who would test themselves against the world’s best.
“The squad… is certainly an extremely talented one and has the capability to have plenty of success,” he said.
“Grothues is a former 65cc world champion (Bulgaria, 2012) and came second in the 85cc world championship in 2014 at Belgium.
“He was selected as a team member for our 2015 campaign but an injury while racing in Italy ruled out the gutsy Western Australian.”
To follow the event, go to www.ma.org.au.