BMX Olympian told he would never walk again completes a remarkable feat

Amelia Brace

Winning an Olympic silver medal was pretty special for Aussie BMX rider Sam Willoughby, but what happened in the US on New Year's Eve was perhaps the biggest feat of his life.

Sam Willoughby and then-fiancée Alise Willoughby, both BMX champions, were meant to wed last April.

But just months before the planned wedding day, Sam broke his neck in training and was told he would never walk again.

He suffered a spinal injury while training last year, leaving him with no movement from his chest down.

Sam Willoughby is an Olympic silver medal winning BMX rider. Source: 7 News

For 15 months he had to relearn basic movements, for two hours every day.

"It's treating your body like a baby again, so it's been a lot of crawling and core stability," he said.

After breaking his neck, Sam was told he would never walk again. Source: 7 News
Months of gruelling physical therapy followed. Source: 7 News

His motivation was to be able to stand up on his wedding day, rescheduled for New Year's Eve 2017.

"I just wanted to be vertical for the ceremony, that was the big goal," he said.

Then, a year to the day since leaving hospital, something incredible happened at the couple's San Diego, California, wedding.

In an outfit more expensive than his bride's, the 26-year-old wore special locked-in knee braces to help him stand.

Knee braces helped Sam to stand during his wedding to fellow BMX rider Alise. Source: 7 News

But he did even more than that. Not only could he stand, he could also dance.

"It was probably the best moment of my life, just being vertical and being able to hold Alise," he said.

His bride said seeing the man stand "was really cool, just being able to look up at him again. It felt so natural."

The highlight of the wedding was Sam's dance with his new wife. Source: 7 News

With his professional future still uncertain, Sam's focus is on his wife's career.

He is now Alise's coach, and together they are determined to reach the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

"Well, he coached me to my first World Championship this year, so I think he's alright," Alise said.

But Sam hasn't given up on returning to his own career and will continue his physical training.

Sam is now focusing on training Alise, but wants to resume his own career. Source: 7 News

"The goal is now the long-term goal, which is to be able to take some steps on my own," he said.

But he won't be taking those steps on his own, saying he is incredibly grateful to have his wife by his side.

"I left her a note on our wedding day saying, 'I think you saved my life', because she did," he said.

"This injury can break a lot of people and I think it would have broken me without her."