Iron-Woman: Freestyle Motocrosser Vicki Golden Overcomes the Odds

December 26, 2018 / by John Basher

Vicki Golden is an athlete with an impressive resume. From Amateur National Champion, to Supercross, to freestyle, she's got experience. But this year, she faced an injury that almost ended her career. Get her story here.

Photos by Defy Focus Photography.

What are you defined by? For some, it’s the ability to grind out a 9-to-5 job in order to pad your 401K account. For others, it may be riding on two wheels every chance you get. For Supercross racer-turned-freestyle motocross athlete Vicki Golden, it would be easy to define the 26-year-old by her many accomplishments. She is the first woman to qualify for a Supercross main event; a three-time X Games gold medalist; a Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National Champion; and nominated for an ESPY award.

Vicki is a very accomplished athlete, but she faced what she'd probably consider the toughest obstacle of her career this year. Read on for her story.

However, in January of this year, Vicki Golden was nearly defined by a freak accident that literally almost took her right foot. She was 30 minutes away from a career-altering procedure, due to compartment syndrome in a badly broken leg. Yet, like so many times before, Golden faced the challenge head on. She endured seven surgeries in nine months, her body pumped full of enough antibiotics to cause her voice to become nothing more than a whisper. Still, she persevered. As it turns out, Vicki Golden’s book of accomplishments has yet to be closed. The southern California native is back on the bike and doing what she loves. You can’t keep a good woman down.

***Caution: Do not watch the video below if you don't want to see the crash***

 
 
 
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Had a freak accident happen. We put soda down on the floor and it was working great for traction all weekend then all of a sudden last show of the day, my wheel just spun as soon as I got on the gas. My right heel is shattered in about 5 or 6 pieces. I developed compartment syndrome within about 12 hours and had to have surgery to release the pressure. Hoping to fly home in a few days once I'm stable then I can work towards having surgery to repair the damage. Very thankful to have @kennytacobell here with me through this. This has been the worst pain I've ever felt and he never left my side. 💜 Huge thank you to @drfeelgoodmx and @enaaszdpm for helping us through this whole thing. Means the world to me to have such good people in my corner. Also thank you to all the staff at southwest general hospital for taking such good care of me. It's always hard to see the light when something bad happens but I'm so thankful it wasn't worse and thankful for everyone lifting me up. I'll be back on my bike in no time. 💪🏻 #fitzarmyfmx #wienerfam #metalmulisha

A post shared by Vicki Golden (@vgolden423) on

Follow along as Golden takes you through the most difficult year of her life, and how she was able to overcome the odds. It’s a story of inspiration, and dedication to meeting goals.

It has been a rough few years for you, having dealt with the Epstein-Barr virus, and then a terrible crash overseas in January.

Golden: The Epstein-Barr episode happened during my first year of freestyle. I came out of Supercross with that virus, and I decided that I wanted to make the transition to another form of two-wheeled fun. With freestyle, the training schedule isn’t nearly as intense. I could practice jumping, rather than hammering out 30-minute motos. Freestyle allows me to still ride my dirt bike and do what I love, while giving my body a break. Or so I thought, at least!

Vicki had to deal with the Epstein-Barr virus during her initial transition from Supercross to freestyle.

What happened?

Golden: The first freestyle injury came when I tried to do a mini backflip with Travis [Pastrana] and blew my knee out. That didn’t surprise me very much, because my knee was already pretty bad. I still rode, but had a brain fart while jumping into Travis’ airbag at his house. I landed feet first into the airbag and broke my left ankle. That was super basic, and there weren’t any complications. I was off the bike for three weeks, and I had plates put in my ankle. I was able to get right back on the Nitro Circus Tour, and things for 2018 were looking really good. The plan was to do every stop on the Nitro Circus Tour with Pastrana. I felt like I was quickly accomplishing my goals, and things were falling into place.

Unfortunately, things went from good to very bad in an instant.

I was doing freestyle demonstrations at several international motorcycle shows. At one of the venues I had to ride on polished concrete, which isn’t good for traction. In those instances, I put down Coke syrup. Once it’s dry, I do several passes on the bike in order to lay down some rubber. For whatever reason, it provides really good traction. I had my doubts about the whole setup, but tried it a month before the accident and everything worked out well. However, it all went wrong on the last show of the weekend. Jimmy Fitzpatrick approached the ramp first, and his rear end slid out. I didn’t think anything of it. I turned to hit the ramp, and when I gassed the throttle my rear tire didn’t get any traction. I could have tried to power through and make it to the safety deck. Survival instincts kicked in. I fell 40 feet in the air straight to concrete. Once I hit the ground I instantly knew things were bad, but I didn’t know to what extent. It ended up being a freak accident.

 
 
 
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Injury update: Went in for surgery number 3 with @enaaszdpm . It turned out to be a little worse than we thought. Originally we were told my heel was shattered into 5 or 6 pieces but when my dr opened my ankle up it was shattered into more pieces than he could count so he had to do a bone graph. He took out the external fixators and put a plate in and 11 screws. Can't thank @enaaszdpm enough for saving my ankle and my career. Having 3 surgeries in 2 weeks has definitely been tough on me but I'm stoked to say that I don't need anymore surgeries! My ankle feels so much better now that it's back together. I really can't say thank you enough to everyone that continues to keep lifting me up with comments and messages. This has been such a painful and scary ordeal with almost losing my foot from compartment syndrome and you guys have helped me get through this.🙏🏻 I still have a long road ahead of me but I'm ready to take it on and can't wait to be back on my bike doing what I love. #wienerfam #metalmulisha #heartofgoldfilm

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You obviously knew that you were going to come up short on the landing as you were going up the ramp. What went through your mind?

Golden: It was a nightmare. I still have flashbacks from that moment. It was a traumatic deal, but things could have been a lot worse. For how bad everything was, it was a miracle that I am able to walk. The first thought that went through my mind when I landed on the concrete was that both of my legs were broken. I knew that my right leg was in really bad shape. Thankfully, my left leg was only severely bruised. My left knee was the one I had blown out, so it was sore for a few months afterward.

"It was a nightmare. I still have flashbacks from that moment." - Golden

What transpired next?

Golden: I was transported to the hospital. The pain medicine that the doctors were giving me wasn’t working. They told me that they had never given anyone as much medicine as they were giving me, let alone a small girl. It was an obscene amount of medicine. It got to the point where it was slowing my respiratory system down so much that I stopped breathing. Machines would start going off, so I would wake up and start breathing again. It was scary. I also had compartment syndrome in my leg. I told the doctors that my leg felt like it was going to explode. They told me that I was fine. Right around 20 hours later, a specialist came in to check on my condition. He noticed that my toes were ice cold, and I told him I couldn’t feel anything in my right foot. He told me that I needed surgery within 30 minutes, or they would probably have to amputate my foot. Thankfully, everything worked out the best way possible, because I wasn’t meant to keep my foot. Most people with compartment syndrome start losing limbs after ten hours. I shouldn’t have had a chance, yet I was able to keep my foot.

What was the total extent of your injuries from the crash?

Golden: I bruised my left heel. My left knee joint was also bruised. I shattered my right heel in over 15 places. I fractured every joint in my ankle, including my navicular and talus. My surgeon didn’t see a reason to try and fix those fractures, because all the other bones in my leg required more time to heal. I ended up reconstructing a ligament in there. What took the longest was overcoming infection. I ended up getting an infection seven weeks post-op, which is pretty unheard of. My incision was almost completely healed, minus a few scabs. Then I ended up getting an infection, which was super weird. I had a lot of soft-tissue damage. As a result, there’s one spot in my ankle that doesn’t have soft tissue. It’s skin against bone. The infection took the longest. I ended up having so many more surgeries because of that. It was hard to get rid of. I spent four months, on and off, taking antibiotics. Every two or three weeks I would get off the antibiotics, and a few days later my ankle would swell up like a balloon. When that happened, I had to go in for another surgery to get the area cleaned and drained. It was gnarly and disgusting. The good news is that I ended up seeing a specialist, and I had a pick line put in my arm. Every eight hours I had to hook myself up to an IV bag of antibiotics. That was the only way to get rid of it. I have to give it up to Dr. Navarro. He helped me a ton, especially through the infection phase. The doctors wanted to do an eighth surgery, but Dr. Navarro went above and beyond to find out a way to avoid that. Once I was completely healed, he did a lot of physical therapy on my ankle so that I could get back on the bike sooner.

How were you able to get over that difficult recovery period, where you endured seven surgeries in nine months?

Golden: It was tough. I’m not very good at doing nothing. I have realized that I tend to go crazy if you make me sit on a couch and raise my leg for weeks on end. Fortunately, other athletes reached out and offered words of encouragement. BMX rider Chad Kagy shattered both of his heels, and he told me about overcoming that. Motocross racer Phil Nicoletti reached out, as did Ken Roczen. It was nice to know that other people have been in my situation, and they were back on the bike doing what they love. It gave me hope. There were dark times. It got to the point where I was questioning whether I even wanted to ride a motorcycle anymore, but I knew that it didn’t matter. That was because I still had to work hard to get back to doing everyday things.

You recently made a return to riding freestyle motocross. How are things going?

Golden: It feels good to ride. Of course, there’s a certain level of pain I deal with, and my level of riding isn’t quite where I want it to be. Still, I’m getting better every day. I try to remain positive and think about where I was nine months ago. I’m back to hanging with all of the boys and living my life again. That’s the best part. I’m working to get my tricks dialed in, and I have every reason to take things slowly. I am enjoying the ride.

Getting back on the bike after a major injury is never easy, but Vicki is moving forward every day.

Your goal last year was to be a part of the Nitro Circus Tour, which you accomplished. Are you continuing on with the Nitro Circus?

Golden: Yes, I am. The crew has been keeping up on me and making sure I’m doing well. Travis [Pastrana] came and visited me a couple of times when he was in town. Everyone from Nitro has been helpful. It’s nice to know that I have a spot on tour. Having a job to come back to is a major stress reliever.

Do you have a funny Nitro Circus Tour story?

Golden: I have quite a few, but I don’t think they’re appropriate to discuss [laughter]. Things get out of hand every great while. For the most part, we have a good time every weekend.

The Nitro Circus crew stuck behind Vicki and supported her through her injury, and kept her spot on the tour right where she left it.

Are you interested in pursuing the backflip and adding it to your bag of freestyle tricks?

Golden: Yes. It’s a goal. I felt really good right before I crashed. I was inching my way to learning bigger up-right tricks and spending a lot of time in the foam pit. The backflips were clicking. I knew more than I had ever known about flipping. It’s funny that I never knew how to do a backflip on anything when I was growing up. The motion was totally foreign to me. However, I was on track to do one on a dirt bike, but then I had my crash. Right now, I’m trying to gain my confidence back and get over some mental blocks caused by the crash. I want to return to where I was and then move on from there.

Physical and mental strength are massively important for freestyle motocross. The dirt bike is also a key part of the equation, isn’t it?

Vicki turns to Wiseco for things like valves, cam chains, and pistons. She likes the Racer Elite piston for its reliability and responsiveness.

Golden: Absolutely. I always stress the importance of making sure that every single part on my bike is the best. There’s no reason for a mechanical failure to happen. I started working with Rob Brown, who is my freestyle mechanic. He does a killer job of working on my bikes. I had Rob install some Racer Elite piston kits from Wiseco. It’s not that I need the extra power for hitting ramps on my 450 four-stroke, but I need to know that the reliability and performance is there in my piston. The Wiseco parts I run in my bikes are unbelievably good. It’s a really cool company to be a part of. They make so much stuff for my bike. Why wouldn’t I have all of the great parts in my motorcycle? I’m really happy that Wiseco has stuck by my side through this injury.

For more information on Racer Elite pistons, Click Here.

You’re very active on social media, with daily posts covering a variety of topics. What is the importance of social media to you?

Vicki feels social media has helped her personally and professionally. She gives it up to the awesome support from her fans and fellow riders.

Golden: It’s everything. Looking back at my crash, I was sitting there in the hospital, and fans would send me messages or leave comments. My fans helped me through a dark period in my life. To this day, I still have people hitting me up on social media and telling me about their injuries. They tell me that I have inspired them to work hard in order to get back on a motorcycle. Reading those messages verifies that what I’m doing by riding again is the right decision. I want to help other people. Life can get really dark, and it’s hard to crawl out of that hole. I’m humbled to have a purpose and do something positive for those who struggle.

You can see Vicki Golden in action when the extremely entertaining and popular Nitro Circus Tour makes a stop by your area. Please visit https://nitrocircus.com/tour/ for schedule stops.

Topics: Powersports, INTERVIEWS, featured

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Written by John Basher

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