by Chris Tobin
Breaking his back twice and having to learn how to walk again has not held back minibiker Jeremy McKnight in his quest to become a world champion.
“This will be the second time I’ve been to the world championships. The first time, last year, I went with five weeks’ notice,” McKnight (33) said at his property just outside Timaru.
He is preparing for next month’s minibike world championships in Scunthorpe, England.
After placing second last year, his goal is to go one better and take the world championship.
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a world champ,” he said.
“When my little boy [Ayson 18 months] gets older, he will be able to say his dad was a world champion.
“Most people ‘gap’ [under-rate] themselves, but someone’s got to do it, so why not me?”
Minibikes or pitbikes are smaller-sized motorbikes.
McKnight will be competing in the 110cc section of the world championships.
He used to be a motocross rider on bigger bikes but he gave it away.
“I raced from 12 to 22. I broke my back for the first time at 19 when I had more balls than brains, trying something impossible.
“It shattered my back and I ended up bed-ridden in Burwood [Hospital] and had to learn to walk again.”
Once recovered, he went back racing and he broke his back again – in a different part. He cart-wheeled his bike and was run over in a 450cc race.
“That’s why I stopped. I started businesses and focused on those. I started a clothing brand so I could stay in the sport.”
“My graphics company does all the motorbike company graphics. It only came about because of those injuries, otherwise I’d be driving diggers.”
Five years later he returned to racing, this time on a minibike.
“Once you’ve ridden, you can’t get it out of you.
“With the minibike you get the same feeling as on the big bikes and it’s a whole lot safer.”
He has found the smaller motorbikes also require a lot of skill.
“You have to be more precise; on the big bikes it’s easier to get away with things.
“On the pitbikes if you’re in the wrong position you can lose balance; you’re not going as fast and not as high.
“You’ve got to work on your style and be cardio fit.”
To prepare for the world championships, he is training three or four times a day.
This includes running 9km, doing circuit work, Olympic-style wrestling and on-bike training on a track he has built at his Rocky Hundreds Rd property.
“If you want to be world champion, you have to train like a world champion.”
McKnight leaves for the championships on April 10 with his fiancee, Kara Dolan, and mechanic Mike McEwing. He sent the pitbike he will race in the championships to England last year.