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Nov 24, 2011 10:20 AM

2 Wheelin' in Tucson: A paraplegic returns to cycling

TUCSON - George Hammel began dirt bike racing at the age of 12, and quickly ranked professional.

However, at 19, everything changed when he broke his back for the second time and became a paraplegic.

"When I hit the jump, I flew off the back and landed on my feet. When I landed on my feet, it broke both my legs, my tail bone, my back, both of my arms and fractured a piece of my skull, " Hammel said.

Although he knew he didn't want to be wheelchair bound forever, getting better was extremely challenging.

"I can't tell you how many days I woke up and thought ‘dude I'm not even going to go to therapy. I hate it."

But his determination and family support gave him a reason to go.

Doctor Scott Jackson, who specializes in physical therapy, says the first time he met Hammel, he knew he had a long road ahead of him.

When I asked Dr. Jackson if he had ever seen a case like George's, he said "Never. Never. He's number 1."

But the challenge didn't stop either of them and they went to work immediately. The first task was to focus on George's quadriceps, which were the only muscles he still had after being wheelchair bound for five years.

After strengthening and conditioning those, they moved to his back and abdominal muscle groups.
Now George can once again get on his 2 wheels.

Last week he completed the 42 mile El Tour de Tucson ride for the very first time.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to make it under 3.5 hours, so doing it in under 3...I was really excited," he said.

Now, George wants to prepare for next years 111 mile long ride, and spread his message to others battling hardships.

"I just think no matter what happens, if you have a strong will and mindset, you can achieve anything you want to."

For more information, photos and videos of George Hammel, please go to his website: www.georgehammel.com

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