Brett Banasiewicz: Ride to Recovery
Less than two years ago, Brett Banasiewicz was enjoying the ride of a lifetime.
Young. Fearless. Marketable. A Dew Tour Champion and the most dynamic trick rider in the BMX world.
But on August 22nd, 2012, just two days after one of the biggest wins of his life, Brett's ride came crashing down.
During a practice run in Virginia, Brett took a life-threatening spill, landing on his head.
"He didn't fall from very high," Brett's dad Bill Banasiewicz recalls. "But he fell at a high rate of speed."
Banasiewicz suffered a traumatic brain injury, and was placed in a coma.
"Before I fell, I won the biggest contest of my life", Brett recalls.
Suddenly, Banasiewicz couldn't walk. Couldn't speak.
"When I first woke up the hospital I was wondering where I was", Brett said.
Brett was lucky to be alive, but he faced a marathon recovery. The next year included months of intense physical & neurological therapy. Slowly but surely, Brett began to improve.
A few months ago, he got back on his bike for the first time:
"I wondered what it would be like", Brett admits. "Riding a bike was a crazy thought."
And he admits the thought of getting back on scared him.
Those closest to Brett say that getting back on his bike has been integral to not only his physical recovery, but his emotional recovery as well.
"There's days he rides", says Bill Banasiewciz, "and you can see he's happy."
Brett mom Lisa Banasiewicaz agrees. "As long as he's happy. Right now, on his bike, he's happy"
"I'm very happy on my bike!", Brett admits.
Brett rides at his personal skate park, The Kitchen, on the west-side of South Bend, three or four days a week.
His motivation? Getting back to the tour where once starred.
"I'm convinced I can compete with my friends again on a high level", he says with a smile.
And so, he rides. Several days a week. Sometimes, several hours hours at a time.
"The first month was just laps, laps laps," Brett recalls of his early days back on the bike."Trying to get my stamina up."
"Two weeks (ago), back in Dallas I did my first trick. A 360 tail whip. It was cool!"
Banasiewicz estimates he's riding at about 15-20 percent of the ability at which he used to compete. But competing, is what drives him forward.
"I wanna come back for myself & everyone in the sport."
His parents share in Brett's dream to return to competition, although with a tempered enthusiasm.
"Can he compete at the pro level again? Yeah, I think he can." says Bill Banasiewicz."At what level, who knows."
One thing we know for use, is that Brett is still fearless on his bike.
"I feel so comfortable. Even though I fall, it still doesn't scare me because I know accidents can happen."
For his parents however, the fear is real.
"I can watch him at the park going back and forth," says Lisa. "But when I see everyone gather and I know he's working on a trick, I go the other way."
"I've seen him fall and know that he' s OK" says Bill. "It's the falls you don't see..."
And there have been falls.
"He's actually fallen a few times and hit his head fairly well," Bills says. "He's got a limitation and he knows where it is."
For Banasiewicz, learning to accept his physical limitations, when the mind is coaxing him to go faster & higher, is a challenge.
"The toughest part is my memory," says Brett. "I know how to do every trick, but my body's not ready yet. I fight my memory. It's gonna take some time."
The blueprint exists in his mind. And Brett remains just as eager to learn on the bike, as he was before his fall.
"Before I fell I was still learning tricks and that made me happy. Now I have to re-learn my tricks, so that makes me happy."
Some things never change.
Brett Banasiewicz fell off his bike. And got back on again.
"It feels great. It's like pressure off my shoulders. I can breathe. I like it."