A sport where glory and victory are directly connected to failure and injuries. This is the story of Emanuel Pombo, a World Cup downhill racer from Madeira Island, Portugal. Emanuel has been racing the World Cup series for almost 8 years, but in August 2010, Val di Sole, Italy, he crashed and injured his back.
The prognostic was reserved, and friends and family weren't sure about how life would be for Emanuel in the upcoming months. In Emanuel's words, "It’s amazing how, in just a heartbeat, a mistake can change our life forever".
“One in one thousand avoid the wheelchair, and you were one of them” were the words spoken by the Portuguese doctor who treated Emanuel back in Porto. His words changed Emanuel's way of thinking as well as his attitude towards life. He was one of the very lucky few that escaped paralysis. However, he ultimately learnt that this was the price he would have to pay to do what he loves most in life.
For four months, Emanuel went through extensive physiotherapy sessions as well as many trips to doctor's appointments. He also took on some of the toughest gym work he's ever done. Though he knew it was necessary and that he wouldn't give up on his dream, being able to ride again. For a while, Emanuel felt it was like starting from scratch, as he had to learn the most basic of movements as well as lead a radically different lifestyle, including wearing a vest that kept his torso from moving for eight weeks. Those that have met Emanuel know of his extreme willpower, incredible drive and above all, his true professionalism. Though he will tell you that it also thanks to riding, as well as his home, and the friends and family that come with it, that have helped develop into the man and the athlete he is today. Getting back on a bike largely increased Emanuel's motivation. He was relieved and thrilled to go back to his town of Ponta do Pargo, in Madeira Island, to see his friends and family, as well as to get his first pedal strokes in on his all-mountain bike.
A few of the reasons why MADproductions
got together with Emanuel to develop this documentary, was to give him the strength and motivated he needed to get through his tough recovery process. He was also able to keep track of his progress, allowing him to reflect on what he had been achieving throughout his path to full recovery.
The extra motivation, as well as Emanuel's success throughout the 2010 season, made him hungry to get back on his bike and ride faster than ever. His objective was to come back stronger than before - improve his international ranking, as well as repeat his national championship win. The highlight of his following season was his remarkable 25th place at the worlds in Champéry, in some of the most difficult and technical terrain any biker has ridden.
Madeira Island has a special place in Emanuel's heart, as it was in the mountains in his "backyard" that he, and his brother Daniel, started building and riding their first trails. It was crucial for him to go back to his riding roots after recovering from his injury, to find the mental edge and confidence he once had. By building new lines on the hills he rode 15 years ago helped him increase his speed and allowed him to have some of the most fun he'd had on a bike in a long time.
The Comeback project and documentary was a big success, even at a national level! Both António, the brains behind MADproductions, and Emanuel found themselves giving interviews for regional and national tv, as well as local and national newspapers. The video was shared hundreds of times on Facebook and other websites, and was a big hit among the Portuguese biking community.
Most importantly, Emanuel Pombo
achieved his ultimate goal: full physical and mental recovery, and the big smile that comes with the joy of being able to ride a bike. His remarkable story has inspired and taught many lessons on determination, belief and happiness!
It was an amazing journey for the whole MADproductions crew, as well as the Pombo family. MADproductions would especially like to thank: Tiago Caetano, Andre Caetano, Andrew Talas, Patrick Talas, Daniel Pombo, Ana Ribeiro Torres, Gonçalo Soares, Francisco Pardal, Rui Amador, Bela Machado, Diogo Andrade, Rita Olim, Filipe Sousa, João Silva, Laura Machado, Rafael Rodrigues, Carlos Castro, Dr. José Vilarinho, Vitor Santos, Tiago Aragão and Frederico Pereira.
Thanks to our sponsors, Specialized, Kenny and Yubo.
Produced by Antonio Abreu], MADproductions
Translation by Laura Machado
Words by Andrew Talas
Photos by Joao Silva and Antonio Abreu