After Jedidiah Snelson became paralyzed while participating in a motocross event, he didn’t let the life-changing accident prevent him from his love of competing. Instead, Snelson discovered CrossFit and found a new way to compete – the CrossFit world championship for adaptive athletes – in which he’ll be heading to this July with his coach. The following account is an inspiration to athletes everywhere.
Jedidiah Snelson’s thirst for competition drove him to race motocross for 17 years. That same competitive spirit is what kept him going strong after a crash that left him paralyzed.
The 36-year-old, an insurance salesman who lives in Meridian with his wife and daughter, wrecked in January 2014 during a race at the Owyhee Motorcycle Club in Boise.
He remembers losing control at speeds up to 35 miles per hour and being thrown roughly 30 feet, hitting the frozen ground and rag-dolling for several more feet. He dislocated his T12 vertebra, fractured four ribs and his sternum, punctured his lung, dislocated his shoulder and his hip, which shaved off the head of his femur.
In the span of just over two years, Snelson went from lying broken in a hospital bed to qualifying for the first-ever CrossFit world championship for adaptive athletes. He has been pushing himself in CrossFit workouts and local competitions for the past year. In July, Snelson and a coach from Snake River CrossFit will travel to Wasaga Beach in Ontario, Canada, for the Worldwide WheelWOD Championships.
The mental escape and physical challenge Snelson finds in CrossFit take him back to his motocross days, he said.
“When you’re on the bike, you’re only thinking about what you’re doing. You can’t be thinking about that other stuff. It was kind of that meditation, that time to just let it go but at the same time still get that good physical exertion,” he said.
CrossFit provides that same release, he said, especially now that he has a big competition to work toward.
During his weeks in the hospital after the accident, Snelson grew frustrated by the idea that in order for him to be happy or successful, he’d have to believe that he would regain the use of his legs.
“I was never in the hospital like, ‘I’m going to walk again,” he said. “I was at peace with that, because I felt like it was out of my control. That’s in God’s hands.”
Instead of mourning the past, Snelson poured himself into the new challenges ahead.
“I can accept the fact that I’m realistically not going to walk again, and that I’m not going to get my legs back, but that I can still do everything that I could before, to a certain degree,” he said. “I can still be successful, I can still be just as outgoing, I can still be just as determined and aggressive with life as I was before. And I can be just as satisfied and happy.”
His wife, Danielle, shares his competitive nature, he said, which has helped them through the struggles of adjusting to life with a wheelchair.
“God gives us the tools that we need to overcome, and I think for us it’s our competitiveness. There was this idea that we won’t let it beat us,” Snelson said.
“There were hard times. I’m not going to say it was all peaches and cream,” he added. “There were times of frustration, because you start from scratch — how to get myself around, how to dress myself, how to handle daily activities, and then building enough strength to do those activities and everything. It definitely disheartened me.”
That’s partly why CrossFit has been so rewarding, he said. The strength he’s built in CrossFit makes it easier for him to get in and out of his chair and to do those daily tasks.
“It’s huge, the quality of life,” he said. “That’s another reason that I want to see it grow.”
Snelson hopes his involvement in the WheelWOD Championships encourages other adaptive athletes — those in a wheelchair or with a disability — to try CrossFit. Selfishly, he said with a grin, he wants to have more local adaptive athletes to compete against.
Snake River CrossFit co-owner Frank Beauvais said his staff has taken an adaptive CrossFit course and welcomes more wheelchair athletes. The gym recently moved to a new location by the Garrity Interchange in Nampa and was designed with adaptive athletes — specifically Snelson — in mind, Beauvais said.
“I don’t want to limit access to anyone,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of isolation, possibly, and lack of access for folks in chairs, which doesn’t allow them to fulfill what their capabilities are now.”
It’s been amazing to watch Snelson’s strength “go through the roof,” Beauvais said. Snelson qualified in third place out of 10 athletes for the WheelWOD Championships.
“This is as big as it gets,” Beauvais said. “No pressure, but we’re expecting him to finish on the podium.”