Paralysed BMX star Sam Willoughby will wear a set of revolutionary knee braces to fulfill his dream of standing for his New Year’s Eve wedding.
Custom-made in the US, the lightweight braces worth about $10,000 can be locked to stop Willoughby’s knees from buckling and allow him to stay upright long enough to wed fellow BMX racer Alise Post.
The 26-year-old Olympian is continuing his remarkable recovery from a serious training crash last year which left him without movement from the chest down.
“Progress-wise, the latest has been a lot of focus on standing and I am able to stand unassisted holding onto parallel bars for around 10 minutes now,” Willoughby told Newscorp this week.
“I also recently got some knee braces to use for the wedding which allow me to stand and take some steps without worrying about my knees buckling.”
Willoughby vowed to walk down the aisle just weeks after his accident.
In September last year, Alise revealed: “We are in the midst of planning our wedding … 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.”
The thought of knee braces came after his brother Matt had researched them, before Willoughby discussed their practicality with his physical therapist.
He was measured up in San Diego in July when specialists made body casts from the waist down. He now wears them as part of his daily rehabilitation but also does exercises without them in a bid to teach his body to walk again.
“He’s in excellent spirits, the fact that he’s got to standing now and is acknowledging the improvement is great and he can see there is some progress,” Willoughby’s mother Sharon said.
“And he’s looking like he used to, he’s fit, he’s built his upper body up and it enables him to do a lot more. He has more options because to get out of that chair and even get into a vehicle is a huge task.”
He has progressed from crawling to standing — and Willoughby’s next major goal is to be able to take a step which would be a remarkable achievement after he fractured two vertebrae and compressed his spinal cord in a crash in September, 2016.