On his back, in pain and struggling to breathe, Special Olympics Cabarrus County cycling coach Ron Stipe, could hear athlete Darius Robinson tell a passer-by, “Yes dial those three numbers, 9-1-1.”
It was April 13th, Stipe and Robinson’s first outdoor practice in preparation for Robinson’s opportunity to compete in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. The two had spent the better part of an hour working on Robinson’s pacing while taking laps on the service road around Charlotte Motor Speedway. On their last lap, Stipe sailing along at 40-45 miles per hour, turned to see why Darius has fallen off pace with him. Upon looking back at the road, he realized he was in danger. The curb had come up on him too fast and he took a nasty spill.
“I remember jumping off the bike because it was borrowed and I didn’t want it ruined. Then I tucked my arm underneath me and landed hard,” said Stipe. “Darius was my angel that day,” he recalled with emotion. “I just got a little too comfortable with new surroundings. He got me help and stayed with me until the ambulance arrived.”
The right side of Stipe’s body was ravaged. He had broken ribs, a broken collar bone and his right lung was 70% deflated and encroaching on his heart. After some touch and go moments in the hospital, doctors stabilized him. After two weeks of unsuccessfully trying to re-inflate his lung, doctors deemed surgery was necessary. Stipe was finally released after a 23 day hospital stay and his recovery is still in progress.
“I’m getting there,” said Stipe smiling. “But there is still pain. I plan to be back on a bike in the fall for the Special Olympics cycling season though! This was just a rare accident. Cycling is such a safe and fun sport, I hate that this happened. And I’m very proud of Darius for getting right back on and practicing hard this spring.”
Stipe has continued to serve as Darius’ coach despite his injuries. From his new vantage point on the sidelines, he actually sees some positives that have come from his accident. Reed Robinson, Darius’ father, has stepped in and been working on resistance training with Darius in order to build up his stamina. The father and son practice riding his 5m, 10m and 15m races at a local middle school. Rick Hoffarth of Total Cyclist, a Charlotte based company that offers cycling coaching and classes was contacted and agreed to help train Darius as well. The two train along the streets of a local neighborhood. Hoffarth also has Darius come and ride at Total Cyclist’s indoor training centers and plans on assisting with the Special Olympics Cabarrus County cycling team in the fall.
“Darius has definitely improved,” said Stipe. “He’s much more consistent and stronger. He likes to coast but has gotten so much better in the past few weeks. There has been a silver lining to this ordeal and I can’t wait to hear how Darius does in New Jersey!”
Whether he brings home a medal or not, Coach Ron Stipe will be forever proud of Darius Robinson for the cyclist he has become, and more importantly, thankful for the composed and caring young man he is.