Over the last few months I have interviewed athletes at their top of their game within the sports arena. For me their story to make it to the top is breathtaking. I am gong to push and explore the boundaries regarding athletes and the link within everyday fashion. For me a man and his career let alone his hobby never separates the two. Every man has a story and if I am going to even encourage a man to think about how empowering it is for anyone watching. Then it’s crucial to know that to be at the top of your game you also need to understand that first impression counts. An athlete needs to show the world that what he wears counts and in most cases it can make and break his sports image.
I would like to introduce you to Simon Crafar a motorbike rider with a long and successful career in the World SuperBike and Grand Prix. This is a guy who shows you how to innovate and push boundaries at every level in the motorbiking. Even when death stares you in the face.
Interview with Simon Crafar
Talk about your highlights of your motorbike career.
Highlights? Well there were many that made me happy, and the stand out result would have to be my British 500GP win in 98, but the more enjoyable races of my career were the races I finished on the podium, but did not win. This is because a good fight is more enjoyable to look back on than a race you run away with at the front. So the highlight would have to be the 1998 Australian 500GP. I was in 7th position and fought my way past many legand’s of my sport (Creville, Abe, Biaggi, Checa, Kosinski) through to 2nd position. I stood on the podium next to my friend and training partner Mick Doohan who had not only won the race but was being crowned World Champion at that same moment. The sun was shining and the Australian crowd who’d come to see their Champion was the largest ‘sea’ of cheering people that I’d ever seen. I looked down and spotted a smiling group of people I knew had made the relatively short trip from New Zealand to watch me race. My Father, Mother, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunt’s and some friends. That was a very special moment.
Everyone has a David versus Goliath moment within what they do, what was yours?
My British 500GP win. The current 4x World Champ Mick Doohan was dominant again in 1998, and I doubt anyone expected me to beat him even after I’d qualified in Pole Position for the race. I didn’t expect it. I simply went from the start and ran for my life expecting him to hunt me down toward the end. By the time I looked back a few laps from the end, I had a 12 second advantage. That day my bike, tyres, and my team’s effort helped me pull off what most thought was not possible.
Define what a champion is to you?
Someone who gets more out of themselves than others think is possible, right when it counts, at almost every event, even when the chips are down. I did not do this often enough to consider myself in this elite group called Champion’s.
After a long career what would your advice be to those that have hang up their boots and have no idea which way to head?
I would say that for a professional sports person, stopping is a huge mental hurdle. Even though I had witnessed great riders litterally fly apart when they retired, and I new it wuld be a difficult period, I was lost and depressed for approximately 3 years before I figured out what was important. Luckily for me they were still by my side. All I would say to others going through this same thing is, don’t risk your loved ones. I’d have never forgiven myself if I’d taken to long to figure it out and I’d lost them.
You had a seriousl accident five years ago. Talk us through the fear, tears and challenges that got you through this? What’s your encouragement to those sports stars that have had such an injury?
It was not close to fatal, but yes it was very serious and the most terrifying experience of my life. After having a head-on collision with a car while riding an off-road motorcycle in Romania, I found myself with no feeling or control over the lower half of my body. T12 Vertebra had been crushed to pieces. The impact and continuing pressure on my spinal cord stopped any signal getting through. My initial thoughts were absolutley terrifying. They were too much for me to handle. I punched the road and yelled ‘No’ repeatedly trying to push the reality away. I could not handle the realisation that a few moments ago I was physically the strongest, a leader, and now I was paralised. The workmates I was leading on this ride were trying to get me to calm down and stop punching the road. I stopped to look at them. THEY had tears in their eyes not me, and that snapped me out of my self pitty. I realised I had to get to a hospital fast and by Helicopter because of our remote, mountain position, so I gave my workmates tasks. The all-consuming fear did not leave for a long time. Weeks. But the hardest thing I had to do was to phone my wife and tell her that I’d had an accident, my back was broken and had no feeling from the injury down. There was no chance of stopping the tears while conveying this to the woman I love.
My good Romanian friends secured the right doctor for me and he completed what every Doctor since has said is ‘excellent work’ in an 8.5 hr operation to fit 8x 50mm scews and 2 rods which fix 5 vertebra together.
5 days later I showed signs of regaining control over my toilet fuctions. The Doctor told me that this was a very positive sign. After two weeks I started to move my toes and had some sensation in limited areas of my legs. I now had hope to focus on which made it easier for me.
I learned how to get myself in and out of a wheelchair, bath and a car without the use of my lower body. I did these classes with others that were in the same predicament but did not have the same hope of regaining the use of their legs. I was lucky.
I don’t think it is possible to get closer to loosing the use of my lower body and get it back (my legs are about 50% strength now). It has helped me see what is important and made me a better husband and father. I would go as far as saying that it was worth it. Isn’t it sad that it took something like this to wake me up and understand that my wife and kids were the important thing that I was looking for after racing, and they were right beside me, but I was looking the other way.
I feel very very lucky to have a second chance.
What’s your advice to the guy that keeps coming last. Is the talent within the sports star himself or is it down to who is coaching him?
I believe that a sports person needs both natural ability and a good work ethic. If one of these things is missing they will reach a certain point but not progress further.
You’ve written two fantastic informative books about improving track performance, why did you do this?
Like I mentioned before, I was quite lost after my racing career finished. One day someone said they needed an instructor and I was invited to try my hand at it. I was a little nervous because I had never taught anything before but quickly found I was good at getting the information across to people in a way they could easily understand, whats more I enjoyed it. I have instructed ever since. I simply felt tat the next step was to put everything I know into a book and DVD. All the things I’ve learned the hard way. There wasn’t anything like this when I was young and I would have loved it if there was. My hope is that my products are helping riders everywhere reach their goals.
I believe that the only chance any of us have of being really good at something is if we have a passion for it. I have a passion for motorcycles. I was lucky enough to make a profession at racing them and now I’ve made a profession out of passing on what I learned during that time. I have put all this and more into Motovudu and Motovudu 2.
I have a few more books and Video’s in my head, so I plan to continue writing until I run out.
I am noticing within the motorbike arena that most men are not seeing the importance of dressing well off the track. Motorbiking and football are both very male dominated sports but when it comes to fashion they are worlds a part. What are your views?
I came from the countryside in New Zealand where what you wear or drive is not important, its all about the land you own. This has served me well, but I believe that if you are a professional sports person, or a celebrity of some kind, image is extremely important. More important than I realised during the time I was at the top.
We all have a legacy what do you want to be know for, what is your legacy that you want to be known for?
Honesty, and giving something valuable back to my sport that helps the next generations of riders.