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November 10, 2011
YOU'D think that downhill
mountainbiker CPL Sarah
Booth would have been in no
condition to argue when medi-
cal staff at the Whistler Hospital in
Canada tried to cut away her cycling
You'd be wrong though.
"You cut my clothes, I'll headbutt
you," she spat at them as they went to
work in the emergency room.
CPL Booth, 32, had crashed while
hurtling down the A Line track in the
Jeep Air race in July, leaving her with
10 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a
fractured lumbar vertebrae (L1) and
split right-hand shoulder blade. This
was on top of an injury from a dis-
located metacarpal on her right hand
from some days before and a very
bumpy, painful trip down the moun-
tain on a quad bike.
The cycling clothes were fairly
new and had come all the way with
her from Australia but it wasn't so
much the cost of them that worried
CPL Booth. She knew she still needed
At this point it is probably worth
pausing to ponder what most people
would do in this situation. Personally,
I'd tell the guys with the scissors to
go for their lives and make sure they
could save mine. And most people I
know would have taken the 15-metre
CPL Sarah Booth is not defending her Defence mountainbike titles
because she is recovering from an horrific crash. But she has big
comeback plans, reports John Martin.
fling into a pine tree as a bit of a sign
that perhaps it was time to retire any-
way.Not CPL Booth though.
Although she now has two tita-
nium plates and five screws in her
vertebrae (for life), she is already
back on her new bike training and has
set a national downhill race at Awaba,
near Newcastle, on March 12 as her
"I don't want people to say 'isn't
it good, she's back.' I want to win the
race," she says.
It is a four-minute descent near her
home and she knows it pretty well.
"It's a track you have to respect.
It's a bush track that has rocks and
roots. The person before you could
kick up a rock that wasn't there
before, so you have to be focused."
CPL Booth will miss the Defence
mountainbike championships in
Canberra from November 7 to 12.
Last year she won both the wom-
en's downhill and four-cross titles but
when the action unfolds in Canberra
this year she plans to be in Western
Australia to help her mother, Jane
Nield, who is having a knee rebuilt.
Call it quid pro quo. Her mother
flew to Vancouver to be at CPL
Booth's bedside after she was airlifted
from Whistler to the provincial capi-
tal, where she underwent surgery and
spent two weeks in the wards before
flying home on a commercial 15-hour
flight complete with her own oxygen
mask and chest tube. Try explaining
that one to fellow passengers who
have to wait for cabin pressure loss
before their oxygen masks appear.
On arrival home, CPL Booth spent
two days in hospital in Newcastle but
was back at work on restricted duties
as an aircraft technician at 2SQN,
RAAF Base Williamtown, by the end
"The doctor was hesitant, but I
was bored with just sitting around at
home," she says.
She is still doing regular rehab
work but her injuries have healed well
-- though her hips, lower back and ribs
still trouble her -- but she returned to
full work in late September.
After last year's Defence titles
CPL Booth was excited about her first
trip to Canada to race at Whistler,
which besides being one of the main
venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics,
becomes a magnet for the world's
best mountainbikers in the northern
She arrived in the place she calls
God's country at the end of June and
spent three weeks training every day.
There was still snow on top of
the mountain and she was looking
forward to the first big race of the
Crankworx carnival -- a 20-minute
descent that starts in the snowline.
Dislocating her metacarpal put
paid to that though. She had a physio
pop it back in and it was hard enough
to grip the handlebars, let alone
squeeze the brakes.
But by July 21, the day of the Jeep
Air race, she was ready to race again.
After lunch she took her blue bike
up the mountain for the start, along
with a bunch of other Australian,
American, New Zealand and
Canadian World Cup riders.
The accident happened halfway
down the mountain. CPL Booth went
over a jump and then the bike bucked
her over the handlebars towards
one of the pine trees that abound on
the mountain. She was conscious
throughout and although she does not
remember how big the tree was, she
knows this: it didn't break.
In an article in Air Force News two
years ago, CPL Booth told how she
thought twice about slamming on her
brakes and losing valuable time while
hurtling down a descent.
In fact, her mantra then was:
"Speed is your friend, speed is good,
speed defies gravity."
It seems she has not changed her
mind, despite her accident.
She has sold her blue bike -- barely
a scratch on it because it fared a lot
better in the crash than she did -- and
with the help of her sponsor has a new
black bike with brushed gold paint.
And believe it or not, a trip back to
Whistler is in her sights -- if not next
year, certainly the year after.
"Downhill racing is 70 per cent
mental," she says.
Look out, CPL Booth has the men-
tal barriers in sight and given her track
record she's not going to stop.
HOURS BEFORE THE
ACCIDENT: CPL Sarah Booth
was so happy to be amid the
hustle and bustle of one of the
world's great mountainbike
centres, Whistler. This photo
was taken by a friend in front
of her sponsor's tent. There
were big screens around the
area and several races finished
just off to the right.
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