MIND OVER MATTER
It has only been a couple of years since Landon Gibson began racing motocross competitively, signing up for his first race in 2017 at the local level. In a few short years, the Georgia native forced his way into the spotlight on the sport’s biggest stage, taking the 65cc (7-9) title at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Championship in August of 2019. He almost won both of his classes, something that very few riders achieve throughout their amateur career, but an unlucky broken chain forced him to score a DNF in the final moto after he fought his way to the front of the pack. Gibson began to outgrow the 65 and decided it was time to focus on the 85 full time for the 2020 season, facing some new competition and a new challenge this year. He logged some solid results throughout the regular spring races and looked poised for many podium finishes throughout the rest of the season, but racing came screeching to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Gibson continued to train down at Moto X Compound in preparation for our return to racing, but an unfortunate riding incident recently put him in the hospital with a pair of broken ankles. He came up short on a big step up and the impact ended up breaking his right foot in four places and his left foot in two places, but he’s remaining in good spirits. We were able to get on the phone with Landon before he even left his hospital bed to see how his surgery went, how he’s been liking the 85cc classes this year, and much more.
How'd your surgery go yesterday?
It went great! You know, I didn't really see anything of course 'cause I was asleep. I'm still in the hospital right now actually 'cause we're waiting for this wheelchair to get ordered and approved and everything, 'cause I broke both of my ankles.
Yeah, that's brutal! We saw the post you made on social media, what happened exactly?
Yeah, I was going up to hit this big step up and my clutch has been wearing off lately, so I've been trying to shift up and the bike really doesn't want to shift up when I pull the clutch in. So I tried to shift up and it wouldn't shift, but I had so much momentum at the time that I tried to slow down and I just couldn't slow down enough. I landed right in the middle of the jump and didn't even almost clear it and then all I felt was my ankles just break. I actually didn't crash; I rode away and I waved my arms and my mom thought something was wrong with my bike. I tried to get off the bike and I fell over, I just collapsed. I just fell straight to the ground and then the bike fell on my legs...and I've never seen my mom run so fast, honestly. It was crazy! She ran so fast.
When you landed, did you feel it right away or was it one of those things where it wasn't until the adrenaline wore off?
I felt it right as I landed but with all the adrenaline it really wasn't hurting until I got off the bike and I just fell over. When I saw my ankle all swollen up is when I started to freak out.
How was it for you and your family having to go to a hospital at this time with the whole coronavirus pandemic? Were you a little bit nervous about that?
Yeah, for sure. I was definitely a little nervous about it but once I got here and I realized that there's no one with the coronavirus on the level that I was on. I just washed my hands and really didn't touch my face much. I washed my hands every time before I ate and stuff. They wear masks and gloves and don't come in without any of that on, so I feel protected. Every time they come in here, they wash their hands and put on gloves before they touch me.
Do you know what the timetable is on your recovery yet?
I talked to the surgeon and he said in two weeks I'm going to come back and he's going to cut this splint off and put a real cast on my right leg (the one that they did surgery on). They didn't want to put a cast on it because there's no point when I'm coming' back in two weeks just to cut the cast off and put another one on, you know what I mean? He said in six to eight weeks he's going to cut both of the casts off and see how everything is doin' and he'll give me an air boot so I can try to start walking with crutches. He said in three months I could be back to riding and stuff like that, but I'm just gonna see how I feel and see how everything goes and works out, you know?
So at least you'll be able to stay moving and work on some upper body stuff to keep your base fitness up during all of this, right?
Correct. I have weights and I'll work on those and ride around the house in my wheelchair just workin' on my arm movement, you know just stuff like that. I just need to keep my body active.
Have you ever had an injury like this before or will this be the first time for you taking this much time off the bike?
Last January I lacerated my liver and my kidney and broke my collarbone, so I was in the hospital for about a week. I was just devastated that I couldn't ride and stuff, but I got healed up and everything was good. I got back to riding quick before I even knew it.
Did that whole experience last year help you feel better about what you're going through now?
For sure, it did. I just know how it goes and I know that sooner or later I'll be back to riding and I'll be back to normal.
What do you do during your downtime when you have an injury like that and there aren't too many ways to entertain yourself?
Normally, just for fun I'll play some video games which really doesn't entertain me too much. I'll play for maybe thirty minutes or so and I'll go outside, ride around in my wheelchair. We go on family walks and stuff like that, I'll have my dad push me around and today we just got a Ranger so once I get my other cast on my right foot, he said I'd be able to drive that around which will be something fun to do. Then I'll just play board games and stuff like that, have some friends come over.
At least you have some sort of motorized vehicle you can go fast in until you get back on the bike.
That's right. I was thinkin' about taking my 105cc motor and goin' ahead and putting that on my wheelchair so I can shred it.
(laughs) That would make for some good social media content.
(laughs) Heck yeah! That'd be sick.
Before you had this injury, how were things going for you during the quarantine down at Moto X Compound?
Right, we just stayed away from each other and we wouldn't get near each other. We'd wash our hands and we stayed on the bike, we really didn't get off and get close to each other just because of the fact that we don't want it to get shut down and stuff like that. I was doing the same program that I've always been doing, I do four days a week and I take off Fridays. I just take Friday off to let my body have three days of rest and then I get back on it Monday.
Last year was your final year on the 65s, how was it for you to get your first title at Loretta's in the 65cc (7-9) class?
It was a really big confidence boost for my mental state and it helped me focus on the fact that I gotta put in the work if I want to win, you know?
Mini Os was your last race on the 65 and you moved up to the 85 full-time for this season. How has it been for you just focusing on racing the one bike now?
For sure. Even when I rode 65s, I trained on my 85 and I feel like when I went to 65s I felt like I had more control over it. I was just really gettin' too tall and I couldn't control it, I couldn't really ride it, and I didn't like it at all. I made the decision to get off and now I train on a supermini so when I get on my 85 it feels like nothin'.
What races did you do at the beginning of the 2020 season before we had to go on a hiatus because of the coronavirus?
Yeah, we did all of the Supercross Futures and we did Daytona and Spring A Ding Ding, then unfortunately they had to cancel the next race because of this whole coronavirus thing.
How was the experience of racing Supercross Futures for you?
You know, the experience was great. They went well, we had some ups and downs but I really tried my best. It's really cool to see that we're racing on the same track that the pros race on.
You ended up with an overall podium at both the Daytona RCSX and Spring A Ding Ding. How'd those races go from your perspective?
So, they went great and we had a great experience being at those races in the 85 class which is a really new class for me. I just moved up from a smaller class and it's really cool to be in there with all the older boys, it just feels good.
Yeah, the 85cc classes are pretty stacked this year. There were lots of really fast kids in the (9-13) Open class you were racing at Spring A Ding Ding.
For sure. You know, I got off to the best start ever (in that class) and someone crashed in front of me and hit me, so I fell and we all had a big pileup. Man, it was just devastating 'cause I had such a good start and I feel like I could've done super, super good. Then in the second moto of (9-12), I was running in 5th place and my chain broke. I had a really good position that I could've gotten and it's kind of like Loretta's, my chain just broke.
What're your thoughts on the track down there at Underground?
It's one of my favorite races just because I love the ruts, the braking bumps, and the big booters are just sick to hit! The track flows really good and I like the braking bumps and stuff because it's just a big separator, you know?
Do you know what your plans will be for later in the year after Loretta's when you get back on the bike in terms of what classes you'll be running?
I was gonna do the 85cc (10-12) Mod class and (10-12) Stock classes at Loretta's and I was planning on working hard and getting up on the podium. I'll run the same ones next season and just keep grinding. I'm the youngest in the class right now, I'm AMA 10 and I just turned 11 on March 7th.