American MotoGP rider Ben Spies announces retirement

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After battling shoulder injuries over the last year, American MotoGP rider and former World Superbike champion Ben Spies has announced his retirement from racing at the age of 29.

Spies, who rode a Ducati for Ignite Pramac Racing, had been out of action since injuring his left shoulder in a practice crash this past August during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Prior to that point, he had been sidelined since the April round at Circuit of the Americas because of lingering effects from a late 2012 crash in Malaysia that had damaged his right shoulder and ended his season.

“I had such high hopes for racing for Ducati and Ducati has been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging year, so I am tremendously disappointed that I have not been able to fulfill my personal goals and team goals with Ducati,” Spies said in a statement.

“I want to thank everyone from racing organizations, factories, teams and all my fans for helping me and supporting me throughout my career. I never dreamed that I would reach the level of success that I have over the past 20 years of racing, but the time has come to stop and I do so with great sadness.”

Spies earned his sole career MotoGP race win in 2011 at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands. With a fifth-place finish in the final standings, that season proved to be his best in the championship. He also claimed three consecutive AMA Superbike titles from 2006 to 2008 before winning the aforementioned World Superbike title in 2009.

Ducati MotoGP director Paolo Ciabatti said in his own statement that while his company had hoped Spies would recover from his injuries and return to racing, they respected his decision to retire.

“It is really a shame for our sport that Ben will not be racing anymore, because in our opinion he is one of the most talented riders in the world,” he said. “We will miss him and wish him all the best for his future life.”

In an interview with Cycle World magazine, Spies gave additional insight into his decision and noted that while his left shoulder is recovering well enough, his right shoulder continues to be problematic. He also ruled out a potential comeback down the road.

“If I attempted to come back and race, it would be for the wrong reasons,” he said to Cycle World’s Matthew Miles. “I know I can’t be at the same level I once was, and I always said I wasn’t going to be that rider who was just out there circulating. That’s not me.”

Column: Contrasting Michael Schumacher’s and Robert Wickens’ situations

(Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters)
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As much of the world looks forward to Christmas and New Years Day in the next few weeks, a dark anniversary is also on the near horizon.

It’s hard to believe that December 29 will mark five years since seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was critically injured in a skiing accident, suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Schumacher and his family were on holiday in the French Alps when he fell and struck his head on a boulder. The impact was so severe that it cracked the helmet he was wearing straight through.

One can only imagine the damage the impact did to Schumacher’s skull and brain.

While chronologically the accident occurred a half-decade ago, for many of “Schu’s” most ardent fans, it seems like it was just yesterday when the earth-shattering news broke.

In the following days and weeks after his accident, Schumacher was placed in a medically induced coma, as well as had at least two surgeries on his brain.

Since then the world has waited for news about the racing legend’s condition, only to receive very little in terms of updates over the subsequent five years.

That’s the way his family wants it, having repeatedly requested privacy when it comes to details about Michael’s condition. That request for privacy should be respected.

Schumacher’s wife, Corrina, issued a rare statement late last month that didn’t really say much about her husband’s condition or recovery, but she did thank fans and well-wishers for their continued prayers and concern about her husband, adding, “We all know Michael is a fighter and will not give up.”

In the meantime, Schumacher’s fans have been able to stay somewhat close to his legacy by watching as his 19-year-old son, Mick, has showed significant achievement in his own budding racing career.

So much so that rumors have already popped up that the younger Schu may soon follow in his father’s F1 footsteps, perhaps as early as 2020.

That, of course, remains to be seen.

What makes the Schumacher situation so difficult for many to still understand is how, while enjoying a simple skiing excursion with his family, he suffered a life-changing accident while having survived some wicked crashes during his racing career that barely affected him.

We still don’t know if Schumacher can walk, talk, is conscious and lucid or not – and many of his fans have already accepted that we may never, ever know any of those details. But if that’s the way he and/or his family want it, again, then we need to respect their wishes.

At the same time, there’s another race car driver who suffered a horrendous injury at Pocono Raceway this past August, namely IndyCar driver Robert Wickens.

Wickens suffered a devastating spinal cord injury that has left him a paraplegic – although there remains a great deal of hope that he will one day walk again.

While both suffered serious injuries, there’s a significant contrast between Schumacher and Wickens. The former (or his family) is keeping all details about his condition private, while the latter keeps his fans and supporters regularly updated on social media on how he’s doing.

That includes Wickens posting a number of videos, including some rather humorous ones where he has a mischievous look in his eyes or a good-natured smirk on his face — like bringing in a Christmas tree to his rehab facility, or “racing” teammate James Hinchcliffe in wheelchairs in a Days of Thunder homage of sorts.

Watching each new Wickens video or reading his most recent online messages, it’s very clear that expressing himself and reaching out to the world is indeed good therapy and medicine of sorts for the Canadian driver.

He needs those social media posts and videos as much as we need them from him.

And it also helps fans better understand where Wickens is at in his recovery and rehab.

If Schumacher or his family wish to still remain private about his condition, we must respect that. But perhaps they could see the good will and good tidings that Wickens’ videos and posts offer. They’re as good for Wickens’ own well-being as they are for his fans — and they could be equally as good for Schumacher, his family and his fans.

Follow @JerryBonkowski