Cam Sinclair film available on iTunes
Australian director Jade Gale's film "Twice: The Cam Sinclair Story" was released on iTunes on July 17, documenting the dazzling rise, spectacular crash, and astounding rebound of an athlete many predicted would never ride again.
The film, which premiered in December in his native Australia, opens with Sinclair's brutal double backflip slam at the 2009 Red Bull X-Fighters event in Madrid, Spain, a crash that would have been a career-ender for just about anybody else. Then it rewinds all the way back to photos of Sinclair playing on dirt bikes as a toddler and archival footage of his early racing career and first forays into FMX to help explain why giving up riding just wasn't an option for him.
From the crash, Sinclair sustained a closed brain injury and memory loss, a lacerated liver, fractures of his trachea and scapula and contusion of a lung. He had to re-learn how to walk before he could even think about getting back on a bike.
X Games fans will know going in that the story ends miraculously: Just one year after the crash, Sinclair was back to FMX and double backflipping his way to a 2010 Moto X Best Trick gold medal in his rookie year at X Games, prompting on-air commentator Tes Sewell to proclaim, "That's got to be one of the greatest comebacks in sports." But even that spoiler doesn't make the story of what happened in between any less fascinating.
ESPN.com caught up with Sinclair, who has since added X Games silver and bronze to his collection, to chat about the film, the crash, his amazing return, and the drive to keep on living the only way he knew how.
ESPN.com: Why was it important to you to tell this story after everything you've been through?
Sinclair: We actually set out to tell a much different story -- we started it back in 2008, a year before my crash -- and our plans changed while we we were making the movie when I fell on my crown doing the double backflip in that big crash in Madrid.
I think everybody thought that would be the end of the movie, if there even was a movie. But Jade Gale, the director, started following my recovery and my rehab and me coming back to riding, thinking that would make a better ending, and I had an even better finish to the story in mind: I came back and did the double backflip again and won gold at X Games.
How did freestyle motocross come to be such an important part of your life that you weren't willing to let it go after nearly losing everything?
It all started with my family, and especially my dad. He raced motocross when he was my age and younger than me, and my grandparents were fairly into motorsports. As soon as I was able to walk I was riding dirt bikes and my brother was riding bikes. I remember riding when I was 4 years old, and I started racing as soon as I was old enough to get a competition license. That's where it all started: My dad and my family. It's been my life since before I can really even remember.
The film jumps from you coming out of a coma and not recognizing your wife, not even really knowing who you were, to tackling rehab and recovery and trying to get back to FMX. Can you fill in that blank a bit?
I woke up and didn't know up from down, but all my friends and family and Robbie Maddison and all those guys were in Madrid after the crash and once I started coming to enough to understand what was going on, they explained to me how I crashed and what I used to be like. I slowly realized I used to be one of the best competitors in Australia, and after watching the video footage and photos of what I was like it all started to come back to me pretty quickly. Still, I think I'm lucky to have had no real memory of the crash itself: It helped me get back on the bike. I think if I'd remembered it I might have been more spooked.
In the film your friend Blake "Bilko" Williams says, "Injuries in FMX are like school books in a classroom … you're not going to get away with doing what we do without getting hurt." How do you get past that fact to go out there and do what you do?
The crashing is bad and the injuries are the downside of freestyle motocross, obviously, but the reward of accomplishment, of landing a trick or winning a medal or putting on a great show for a stadium full of screaming people, is the best feeling you can get. It's weird to try to describe the feeling I get when I land the double backflip in a stadium full of people cheering, but it gets you over the fear of crashing and hurting yourself.
And I think the other thing is that you're out there with your mates and everybody's going for it, and that keeps you motivated. Everyone involved in action sports, we're all the best of friends. We compete against each other, but we don't care if they beat us or we beat them. As long as we are safe and healthy and riding well, it's its own reward.
Was it hard to have cameras on you through the worst of what you were going through, needing help walking and all of that, and to look back on it after the fact and have to face how gnarly it all really was?
Yes, but I wanted everybody to know the truth of what I'd been through. There had been a lot of rumors going around at the time that I was fine and there was nothing wrong with me, and then there were just as many rumors going around that I was on my death bed. After coming through it all it's been good to take people behind the scenes and let everybody know the truth behind my injuries and my recovery and what it was like to get back on my bike. Jade Gale did an awesome job with putting it all together, and I couldn't be happier with the way it came out.
The film concludes with X Games 2010, and we've since seen you come out and win Moto X Best Trick silver in 2011 and bronze this year. What else have you been up to and what are you looking forward to?
I broke my femur in October last year at the Monster Cup in Las Vegas and I also broke my shoulder again last year, so you definitely get reminders that you're not invincible. But that's all part of it, right?
Right now I'm looking forward to that next big chapter in my life because I have my first child due in about five weeks, in October. Apart from that I'm going to Europe in November with Nitro Circus and next year we're going to tour in New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S. Between Nitro Circus and X Games it pretty much fills my whole year up.
Six years after Pastrana landed the first double backflip at X Games you can still count on one hand the number of guys who have landed them, and you've done way more of them than anybody at this point. What is it about that trick in particular that is so intimidating and makes it so difficult, and how have you come to master it?
A lot of people want to try it, but to learn it is not as easy as taking baby steps. You have to commit and go for it, and that's the biggest difference between a double backflip and a lot of other tricks: It takes a lot more commitment. You can't do one-and-a-half backflips and you can't due one-and-three-quarters … it has to be the full double or you're going to get hurt. I had to learn that one the hard way.