It’s now three months since Toma Coconea suffered one of the worst accidents in Red Bull X-Alps history. Now back on his feet and in fighting spirit, he tells us what happened, and why he can’t wait for the next edition.
Talk us through what happened.
While I was passing the gate to St. Moritz, I was at a very high altitude, around 3,800m, and from that altitude I started a very violent descent. I accelerated to maximum speed but got trapped in a valley with no way out. Because of the strong wind I started to fly backwards. When I landed, the wind threw me on some rocks. First I hit them with my helmet and after that my body was dragged over them. Finally my equipment got stuck in some rocks and I stopped.
Instinctively, I protected my arm and this is why my elbow was injured. The sharp rocks cut a little bit of my face, my nose and broke some teeth. Beside this, I had also big bruising on my back. Somehow I feel lucky because I believe I didn’t have such a bad injury.
Pilot error or bad luck?
From my point of view I didn’t make a mistake. I believe it was bad timing. I passed by when the wind was blowing quite hard.
What did you learn from the experience? Would you have done anything differently?
For sure, I will be more careful next time. I will adapt my equipment so I can release myself faster, so I can jump before hitting the ground, if necessary. I will carry a knife with me, so that I can cut the strap. This could’ve been a way to release myself, change the strap and continue the race.
How are you healing up, physically, but also mentally?
I’m lucky to have a healthy body and this helped me to recover faster than the doctors expected. For physical recovery I’m training a lot. Swimming is helping me to recover the arm. Mentally, I didn’t have any barrier. If I could, I would’ve left the hospital to continue the race! It helps to know it could have been worse.
So your arm is now out of plaster?
I removed the plaster a few days after leaving the hospital! I wanted to fly, although I had some pain at the first flights. My stubbornness helped me to straighten my arm faster and now I can use it 80 per cent. Hopefully, soon it will be at full power. My eagerness helps me to fight more and recover faster.
Your supporter Daniel said you would come back even more handsome. Is this true?
Yes, I’m very sexy with my scar.
You have a huge fanbase. Have your fans been a help?
The fans are always giving me energy and helped me both during the race and with the recovery process.
But can they also create extra pressure?
I wouldn’t say pressure in a negative way, but a positive influence to push through the barrier.
Was the race now more difficult than previous years?
I don’t believe the race was more difficult than the previous years, but the athletes training level is higher. I believe that the better strategy of some teams made the difference.
Are you still motivated to do the race again in 2017?
Of course, I’m more than motivated. I still have something to say in this competition.