Photo: Justin M. Bowen
By John Katsilometes
Las Vegas Sun
“You ride it, you jump it!” is the show’s mantra, and the feeling is that if a kitchen sink were tricked-out with a set of wheels — and in the hands of these guys, that is possible — it would be next in line at the Giganta Ramp.
There was no sink, but there was the wildly suspenseful appearance of Las Vegas’ own wheelchair-riding extreme sports star, fan favorite Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham. The 19-year-old young man who prefers to say he’s “on” rather than “in” a wheelchair suffers from spina bifida and has been in — er, on — the chair since age 13.
Before the performance, in a wacky meet-and-greet with VIP fans and media, Fotheringham said he planned only, “Some gnarly tricks. … I’m going to do a front flip, for sure, but the rest is all fuzzy. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve procrastinated a little bit.”
Yes, Wheelz needs to work on his work ethic. We joke, of course.
Fotheringham did execute the front flip brilliantly, landing with a satisfying thud, as the crowd roared and his fellow performers swarmed him at the bottom of the thinly padded ramp. Later, he was not so fortunate. Wheelz attempted double backflip, and the danger of such a stunt was played out in a jarring-yet-comical video montage showing him tumbling after misfiring on similar attempts over his brief career.
Wheelz is the first person to ever execute such a feat in — er, on — a wheelchair but didn’t land cleanly Saturday night and spilled from the chair after an off-kilter landing.
Wheelz quickly raised a hook-’em-horns sign to the crowd as event officials gathered him back into his chair (he says he has built up his upper body to add human padding for such non-choreographed moments). Meanwhile, performers on BMX bikes still soared toward him from the Giganta Ramp, the performance continuing its uninterrupted, and extreme, series of stunts.