Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 | 8:54 p.m.
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Robbie Maddison may have cheated death on New Year’s Eve but he didn’t walk away from his motorcycle jump and freefall stunt unharmed.
The 27-year-old thrill seeker tore the flesh between his thumb and forefinger while landing a 50-foot freefall from the top of the Arc de Triomphe at the Paris Las Vegas hotel.
On Thursday evening, he downplayed his torn flesh injury.
“I’ve broken my neck, knocked my teeth out, broke my collar bone, punctured my lung, broke my left wrist twice … this is like a paper cut,” he said with a laugh.
The Australian-born motorcycle stuntman said he considers his 10 stitches “a little momento to take away from the trip, a little souvenir.”
All joking aside, Maddison admitted he could have fared much worse.
“I was definitely lucky,” he acknowledged.
Maddison’s injury occurred just moments after he completed a 120-foot jump to land his bike atop the 96-foot high, 40-foot-wide Arc de Triomphe.
The spectacle in front of the Paris Las Vegas was part of the Red Bull “New Year No Limits” broadcast. Footage of his triumph atop the Triomphe was broadcast live on ESPN and online, and was witnessed by thousands of fans and stunned onlookers who lined the Strip to watch the death-defying leap.
It was a year to the day that Maddison broke the Guinness World Record when he completed a 322 feet, 7.5-inch jump at the Rio.
This year, he was one of three men who performed stunts in Las Vegas during high-profile, high-risk events on New Year’s Eve. Robbie Knievel jumped his motorcycle over the Mirage volcano and New Zealand-born thrill seeker Rhys Miller performed an off-road truck back flip at the Rio.
Maddison, however, was the only one to get hurt. He injured his hand during the second half of his demonstration, during a planned 50-foot drop from the top of the Arc to the base of a ramp.
He said it all happened so fast he’s not sure how the injury was suffered.
“I think it might have caught on the clutch,” he said Thursday night. “Either that or my thumb got (jammed) right at the time of impact.”
“I kind of overdid it,” he said.
“Right at the time of impact … I knew I had done something to my hand … Once I pulled up I knew I had hurt my hand (but) I was just excited that I rode away from it,” he said.
Although he said he knew he hadn’t broken any bones, Maddison was taken to a hospital immediately.
“I went to University Medical (Center) right after I got off the bike,” he said. “They X-rayed me, cleaned me up and put me in a splint … They put 10 stitches in there, between my thumb and index finger.”
He said UMC’s “very friendly” staff had him feeling better in no time. After about 90 minutes in the hospital he returned to the Strip and later went to an after-party at Risqué nightclub at the Paris Las Vegas.
He said doctors will perform an MRI in the coming days to check for further damage but he remains optimistic about his recovery.
“It’s definitely sore but it doesn’t feel too bad so I think it’s going to be alright,” he said.
He said he will take a few weeks off but will be back on his bike soon.
“I already took the cast off,” he said, laughing once again, adding that the stitches will be removed in about 10 days.
He said the injury wouldn’t prevent him from competing in other Red Bull-sanctioned events in the spring.
“This is what my life’s been about,” he said. “I’ve always challenged myself to do bigger jumps. I just love the rush.”
He said broken bones and punctured lungs didn’t dissuade him from pursuing his sport and 10 stitches won’t turn him off, either.
“This was a risky jump but this is what I enjoy doing,” he said.
He said his friends and family are supportive.
“I’ve worked hard to get here so I guess they’re proud to see me succeeding,” he said.
While critics might suggest Maddison should consider himself lucky and not push his luck any further, he said giving up the sport he loves simply is not an option.
“When you’re passionate about something, the bad things about it don’t deter you,” he said. “If they can’t understand it, I feel sorry for them.”