Leighton Lillie will participate in this month’s Winter X Games with a clear objective in mind.
“If I do good enough, I would probably get invited back again next year,” Lillie said.
That will be Lillie’s goal when he competes on the biggest of stages in extreme sports on Jan. 26 (12:15 p.m., ABC).
“Never would I have thought I’d be doing something like this,” the 35-year-old Lewiston resident said, hinting at past tragedy. Ten years ago, Lillie was paralyzed while competing in professional motocross.
“To have an injury like I had, you think it’s over.”
But it wasn’t.
Lillie began racing again in jetboats. That helped give him the confidence to say yes when the X Games recently reached out to him about competing in its adaptive snowbikes division — despite having no experience whatsoever on the machines.
“It’s a big learning curve,” Lillie said of riding a snowbike — which is basically a regular dirt bike, with a track for the rear wheel and a ski for the front tire.
Lillie said that, by the time he takes the starting line in Aspen, Colo., he’ll have been practicing on a snowbike for about six weeks — not a lot of time, “especially when thinking about it from a racing perspective, as opposed to a joyriding deal.”
While Lillie said that “it’d be awesome to bring some hardware back,” he pointed out some of the odds he’ll face at actually winning his event. “I don’t know about winning it; the guy who’s won has won the last couple years, and (the other racers), they’re all past professionals, so they’re good — there’s nobody that’s a sleeper.”
Asked if he ever gets a jolt of fear when competing in extreme sports — considering that’s how he became a paraplegic — Lillie had the following to say:
“There’s always anticipation and that’s what I have — that’s what keeps me going, but I’m never really scared.
“There’s definitely some butterflies — especially at this point.... But I’m jacked to be back racing on a motorcycle again, especially at such a high-profile event.”
Edelman may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2277.