An Olympic silver medallist and two-time BMX World Champion, Sam Willoughby has an inspirational story unlike any other Australian sportsperson.
At the top of his game, just one month after the Rio Olympics, Willoughby tragically suffered a horrific spinal injury, putting an end to his sensational racing career. But through perseverance and determination, Willoughby was able to walk down the aisle to marry the love of his life and fellow Olympic BMX representative Alise just over one year after his accident.
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Showing great determination from a young age, Willoughby took out his first Junior World Title in China in 2008. The year also saw Willoughby record wins across Australia, New Zealand and the United States, all while completing his year 12 studies.
In 2009, Willoughby returned to Adelaide to defend his title in front of his home crowd. He did not disappoint and in doing so became the first rider in the history of the sport to win back-to-back Junior World Titles.
In April 2011, aged 19, Willoughby won the BMX Australia National Championship Final. His great form throughout the 2011 season helped lift Australia to the highest ranked BMX nation in the world.
In May 2012, Willoughby’s transition to the senior ranks was complete, crowned UCI BMX World Champion. Months later, at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Willoughby fought his way through the heats and semi-finals to take home an historic silver medal, finishing less than half a second behind gold and becoming Australia’s first ever BMX Olympic medallist.
2013 saw Willoughby compete on the USA National circuit, winning 19 of the 24 events – and set a record of 13 straight wins through the middle of the season.
More success came in 2014, when Willoughby claimed his second World Championship, bringing home another gold medal in the Elite Men’s Final in Rotterdam.
Sam went into the 2016 Rio Olympics as one of the favourites clocking some of the fastest times in the heats, but a slight hickup on the first jump pushed Sam well back in the field and he was unable to make up the lost positions finishing in 6th place.
In September 2016, Willoughby’s life changed forever after suffering a horrific spinal injury while training in the US. Initially, Sam was paralyzed from the chest down however his recovery since that moment has been excellent. Whilst Sam’s racing career has presumably ended, he notes that ‘it puts things into perspective.’
Willoughby set himself the goal of walking down the aisle for his wedding day, and on New Year’s Eve 2017, he did just that, marrying his long-term partner Alise before sharing an emotional first dance together.
Willoughby has since returned to the BMX track to coach Alise.
Sam Willoughby’s story is one of remarkable performance and perseverance against the odds. Sam is now available to book for speaking engagements, to enquire please email JElliott@tlaworldwide.com