Days before the Munich stop of the global X Games tour, Ronnie Faisst crashed and blew out his knee, crushing all hopes of winning a gold medal in Speed & Style this year.
Sometimes humans make mistakes. The problem is that when you ride freestyle motocross, those mistakes can be painful and costly.
For Faisst, missing a step in a flip trick left him stalled out, upside down 35 feet above the ground, planning out his imminent descent to a sure injury. Getting his feet underneath him and bracing for impact, Faisst slammed into the ground, tumbling to a stop, significantly damaging his left knee.
Upon impact he quickly felt the shooting pains of a broken femur, possibly even a compound fracture. He then felt the area around his injured leg and was relieved to find no bones protruding through the skin.
"I kept feeling my kneecap because that's where all the pain was. But it's also where I had my rod from my femur injury so the first thing I thought was I hope that's OK. I was hoping that thing wasn't sticking out," Faisst said with a laugh. "Taka [Higashino] kept saying what's wrong and I kept saying, 'I broke my knee,' but I guess you don't really break your knee."
Hopes that the injury was just a sprain were soon dashed when Faisst's knee swelled up and he went to see his doctor. An MRI confirmed the ACL damage and Faisst had full reconstructive surgery so he could try to get back on his bike as soon as possible after some physical rehabilitation.
After his surgery, Faisst talked with XGames.com about what happened. But first he took a deep breath as though the thoughts of what happened came flashing back through his mind. He let out a sigh filled with a bit of disappointment and a mild chuckle at the end and said, "I was so pissed at myself [about the crash], but there's nothing you can do. It just happens sometimes!"
His smile brightens and his spirits pick up when he talks about making it back in time for the start of the 2014 Nuclear Cowboyz Tour in January. Then he can reset his sights on that X Games gold medal that has eluded him for so long.
XGames.com: So tell me what happened exactly with the knee injury?
Faisst: Well, I blew out [the] ACL completely, tore my meniscus at 50 percent, and I tore my MCL but the tear was minor. So I did a cadaver on the ACL; my meniscus, they were able to remove 30 percent of it and fix 20 percent.
I did it here in the back yard practicing for X Games [Munich]. I actually crashed on a Friday and was supposed to fly out Tuesday. I was basically done for the day. I crashed on a no-handed backflip. I was thinking about step two and forgot about step one. I was thinking about stretching back farther with my head and extending.
I basically never flipped, I rode off the ramp in the flip position and never pulled. They call that a floater. So I had to jump off and ditch the bike, landed on top of my feet on the landing, kind of tumbled down and basically just blew my knee out. It felt like my femur went through my knee cap.
Went and saw the doctor, got the bad news and got the surgery to repair it.
A lot of times people don't understand that you can hit the ramp a thousand times and never make a mistake. And then one time, as human error happens from time to time, you make a mistake. What's that like when that happens?
It's just one of them things. You know, it's funny -- how long have I been doing no-handed flips? Years!
And then you crash on a trick you've been doing so many times. That's just it, in freestyle one little hiccup and it can get ugly real quick.
It's like, you know, you know what you're doing and you say to yourself, "Why did you mess that up? It was just a full brain cease. Just a full brain fart I guess. I knew what I wanted to do on the way to the ramp.
There's a lot to think about when you do some of these flip tricks. Flip-feet, head, look at the bars, hands off, and that's kind of the way the thinking goes.
I know a few people have wondered if this latest injury has caused some thoughts of retirement. Has that crossed your mind?
Oh, no! I'm not retiring anytime soon! I'm 36 now and my goal is for another four years. I'll be doing Nuclear and X Games as long as they'll have me.
So we can definitely see you back at X Games in Speed & Style?
Yeah, I want to win a gold medal. I wasn't happy with this year's finishes. I want a gold medal! It's cool there [are] four X Games [with Moto X events], it gives me a bunch more chances (laughs).
How much longer are you out?
It's a total of six months for recovery and I'm at two months right now, so four more. I'll be ready for Nuclear tour, possibly for rehearsal but I think I'll be fine no matter what. I'll still be at rehearsal learning the show even if I can only walk through or ride through the show without jumping.
I'll be back stronger than ever. Every time I get hurt I always come back in better shape.