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Paraplegic keeps competitive spirit alive with triathlons

July 21, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Ricky James, a 23-year-old paraplegic from Oceanside, Calif., will be competing in this Sunday's Lake Placid Ironman.

James is a former motocross star who suffered a spinal injury during a crash in a competition when he was 16 years old.

Ever competitive, James refused to give in and continued to race stock cars, and then in 2008 took up triathlons. That year, he competed in three half Ironmans and one full one in Hawaii.

Article Photos

Ricky James finishes the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.
Photo provided

James finished each race and took first in the Hand-Cycle Class Championship in the Foster Grant Half Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Clearwater, Fla.

After a successful stint as a triathlete, James decided he wanted to return to racing motorized vehicles.

"My goal was to get to Hawaii and do one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Ironman there is," James said. "Complete it and be done with it, move on to my first love of racing."

So after finishing those four triathlons, James said he invented a special dirt bike that would allow him to compete again in the sport of motocross.

"No one had ever done it before," James said. "It had electronic shifting and electric start."

After some successful races, including a silver medal in adaptive motocross in the X Games, James had another serious accident in 2010. In that crash, he flew over the handlebars and broke his back.

"It scared me. I didn't know if I was going to wake up from that one," James said. "I knew it wasn't good. So I called it quits on my dirt bike."

Now James is rededicated to triathlons. He's completed two half Ironmans this year and now hopes to finish the second full Ironman of his life.

"I don't have anything else to achieve (as a dirt bike racer)," James said. "I wanted to focus my energy on something that actually counts and is actually better, and that's what I think Ironman is."

But James is quick to point out that he hasn't done this alone. He gives an enormous amount of credit to his trainer David Bailey, a paraplegic who also was injured in motocross racing.

James is also sponsored by ReFeel and The Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competition.

By doing this race, James will be raising awareness for their causes.

The Challenged Athletes Foundation and the REFUEL/"got chocolate milk?" campaigns are working together to help raise $50,000 to support CAF.

To help raise these funds, people are encouraged to visit to vote on the next Team REFUEL members. For every vote cast, a $1 donation will be made to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

For more information on the Challenged Athletes Foundation, visit



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