Pol Espargaró (Granollers, 31 years old) lives with a pile of motley machines scattered around the living room. His agenda is studied to the millimeter. Physiotherapy sessions, rehabilitation and more than four hours of hyperbaric chamber are part of his strenuous days. All to continue fulfilling the dream of his life, to be a motorcycle racer. Ten weeks ago, at the premiere of the MotoGP World Championship in Portugal, he suffered a chilling fall with serious consequences that had the entire paddock on tenterhooks.
Pol Espargaró, in Andorra, in May 2023.Daniel Ochoa de Olza (Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
"I remember something, but not everything," he explains to EL PAÍS, barefoot and relaxed on the sofa despite the voluminous corset that protects his back. "I can finally say that I am fine, after almost two months and with the perspective of everything that happened." His smile is almost a miracle. On March 24, he lost control of his GasGas, shooting through the air and impacting and bouncing up to three times against the asphalt and gravel at full speed. He ended up hitting the barriers, and the motorcycle, an uncontrolled projectile, almost finished him off.
Medical assistance to Pol Espargaró after his serious accident at the Portuguese GP.NUNO VEIGA (EFE)
The images freeze the blood, and he acknowledges that he has seen the accident repeated several times. "When you fall, at first you wonder why. The pain, the injuries, the time off. You see everything black. Then time passes and you realize that you have been lucky, "he reflects.
The idea of saying enough has been in my head. It is not the first nor will it be the last, but it is the most serious fall in his career. "I thought about retreat. An injury is like a roller coaster. There are days when you go to sleep very tired, with a lot of pain, and others when you think; 'Where is the bike, I'm getting on.' The four days he spent in the ICU were the hardest. "Everything is bad there, it's not a slide of emotions. The pain is constant, severe. So you do think about whether you want more of this, or for your daughters to see you this way. We talked about it with my wife, and she told me not to worry." After going through the worst part, it was Carlota who encouraged him to continue pursuing his great passion.
Since he got on a mini-bike at the age of two, he hasn't stopped: "I don't know how to do anything else, it's what makes me happy." In 2006, at the age of 15, Espargaró became the youngest rider to score points in the motorcycle World Championship. That's when he met his life partner and future wife. "Without her my whole life would not be possible. It is the pillar of my life. The elite athlete is very selfish. Without the environment, without the people who help him, he would achieve nothing. I don't like that vision of a vase woman, that idea that only accompanies the athlete. It's an ugly and wrong stigma," he says. Thanks to her and her close group of collaborators and friends, in 2013 he was proclaimed Moto2 world champion and, since 2014, he is a fixture on the grid of the premier class, still with the thorn stuck in not having achieved the victory. "We brushed it three times," he sighs. Seeing how well the bike is doing also fuels his efforts to recover.
That Espargaró is thinking of returning to the ring impresses when reviewing the medical part. You need several minutes to summarize it: cervical fracture with involvement in the nerves of the neck; fracture of two ribs; Three broken vertebrae, the most delicate the eighth, a little chafado and the one that carries the greatest risk if you suffer another fall. There is more: involvement in the ear; lump in the hand; lip open and stitched; and jaw fracture in two parts. This last injury forced him to have his mouth completely closed for four weeks, in which he lost nine kilos of weight and all the accumulated muscle mass by being able to ingest only liquids. He has already recovered four, skipping at times the vegan diet he has followed for years.
Right now, what worries him most are the neural sequelae of the accident, one of the great unknowns on his way back. "It's what scares me the most, maybe because of the uncertainty. I'm used to breaking bones, but the neural issue is very complex. Nerves take a long time to heal and there are no medicines to help. It is something so delicate that it even escapes many doctors, "he says. Espargaro's intention is to return before the summer break, and he pushes to reach one of the three races that are scheduled before June 25.
A simulator at home
Coinciding with the Dutch Grand Prix, the last before the holidays, it will meet the standard three months of mandatory corset for patients with spinal injuries. Although he has squeezed the times to return this week for the Italian GP, he has not received the medical clearance due to edema around the vertebrae and will continue with the recovery at home. "The doctors are cautious, they try to keep me away as much as possible," he admits. He appreciates his work, dedication and affection, also the warmth of the fans and his team. From Austria they have provided all the possible support for the rider who achieved the first podium in the history of KTM in the premier class. Pol has received a hyperrealistic simulator at home, a new technology that they have developed against the clock to facilitate his return. "They haven't left me alone, and for a driver it's super important," he says.
Espargaró works on his recovery almost 24 hours a day. Even when he sleeps. He grabs one of those weird machines in the living room and plugs into them on the bed. Use up to eight different technologies to accelerate it to the maximum. He doesn't give up, he never gives up. His relatives know it well, and anyone with an eye can deduce it. He has the phrase tattooed on his right forearm, where he can always see it: Never give up
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