Being sentenced to life in a wheelchair and losing a leg didn’t rob these young men of their faith that they will ride in the Whistler Bike Park one day. With immense help of sponsors and support of good friends, Michal Kosik and Daniel Barak made it to Canada to accomplish their long-time dreams. ‘The Crippled Trip’ movie by Fullface production’s cinematographer Martin Vrbicky aspires to find its audience even beyond the cycling community.
Some people waste their lives without even noticing their dreams have dissipated. This is not the case of Michal Kosik from Pilsen in Czechia. An ambitious mountain biker used to daydream about many things like taking part in the National DH Cup or visiting Whistler, a unique Canadian mountain resort with what is arguably the best bike park in the world.
In his fantasies, Michal saw himself dashing down the perfectly shaped trails through the beautiful countryside of British Columbia, enjoying countless numbers of jumps and berms. Even though Canada seemed to be too far and the plane ticket way too expensive back then, Michal has never lost confidence that a future trip is only a question of time needed to make enough money to go.
All of this was brought to a sudden halt by a single crash at a snow jump exhibition. Had Michal landed the trick correctly, no damage would have been done. Unfortunately, he hit the lip with too much speed, which over-rotated him in midair and sent him head-first against the ice-hard surface.
“In the first moments after regaining consciousness, I believed that I was unable to move either of my legs simply because I broke them. As I recalled the details of the crash seconds later, I realised that something worse might have happened, something much worse,” Michal recollects the accident that changed his life some 16 years ago.
The dream of visiting Whistler was not the only one that vanished that day. As the result of the crash, Michal broke his 8th and 9th vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord irreversibly, which sentenced him to life in a wheelchair. Michal didn’t give up, however, and underwent a complex recovery process to get his body to the best possible shape.
With the help of his friends, he managed to design and manufacture an original off-road quad bicycle and got back on the wheels. As the years went by, the daydream of making a trip to Whistler crept slowly back into his mind. This was at a time when coincidence brought him together with Daniel, another rider fatally affected by adversity.
Injured at the age of two
Daniel Barak, engineer in heavy steel construction manufacturing at an ironworks, fell under a running corn harvester when he was 2 years old. Before the operator turned off the engine, the machine cut off Dan’s left leg, right below the hip. “The harvester crippled or maybe improved me in a certain way. Only God would tell the difference,” laughs Daniel who encourages his close friends to call him Pahyl (Stump) and proudly wears that name on the back of his jersey.
Since he got injured in his early childhood, Daniel got used to the consequences and doesn’t feel uncomfortable speaking openly about what changed his life once for all. “Today, this seems to be an advantage in comparison to people who suffered similar losses later in life.”
Sharing a vision
When Michal and Daniel met, they soon found out they both had the same dream: to get to Whistler, no matter the inconveniences or the costs. This was when Petr Rund from Nero Drinks came into the picture and helped them like deus ex machina. The Pilsen-based company producing non-alcoholic beverages donates 5 Czech crowns from each sold can to a special fund that supports disabled athletes including several Paralympic medallists. Petr was excited by Michal’s and Daniel’s idea and promised to provide missing resources.
The next step was to hire a professional movie maker to film a document that might encourage similarly disadvantaged athletes in their struggle. Thanks to social media, more money was raised on a transparent account to pay for the filmmaking costs, and Martin Vrbicky of Fullface production joined the team. His history of shooting with legends like Tomáš Slavík, Martin Söderström, Guido Tschugg, Szymon Godziek, Eva Samková, Tina Maze or Travis Rise suggested he would do the best work. With photographer Radek Fieber and medical assistant Petr Maloun, the crew now had five members.
Three weeks in heaven
The trip was scheduled for the end of summer 2019. Despite the horrendous sums spent on the transport of bikes and quads, the guys didn’t exceed their budget because they decided to stay at the Riverside camp for as long as three weeks. While bikers slept in tents, the rest of the crew spent their nights in the open air. “The countryside was amazing, it definitely surpassed all of my expectations. We even saw a black bear roam in the river,” Michal Kosik says.
It didn’t take long for the cinematographer to understand that he was about to shoot a real extreme sports movie with a pair of strong athletes. “Considering myself a skilful biker, I was astounded by the speed at which the guys stormed down the trails. Sometimes, I even had troubles to keep up with them,” the man behind the camera recalls. “Spending three weeks with them was a great lesson about life for me. Most of my personal issues turned out to be negligible in comparison with what they had gone through.”
The movie name ‘The Crippled Trip’ might sound offensive to some, but the movie protagonists insisted that most disabled people tend to have a liking for black humour. And so it happened. The entire crew hopes you’ll love the movie at least as much as they loved the place where they eventually made their dreams come true.