ATV Motocross

Difficulty Walking Doesn't Stop ATV Racer

Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 12:00 AM

The Chattanooga Times Free Press recently published an article about Cody Shelton. The full text follows, or you can read it directly in the Free Press site at the following link:

When he walks, Cody Shelton is unsteady, legs inverted at awkward angles, flanked on either side by people or walking sticks.

But when he races ATVs, the 12-year-old is a picture of balance and precision.

““He rides where he can’t walk,” said his dad, Mitchell Shelton, 44.

When Cody was born nine weeks early with cerebral palsy, doctors said he would never walk or run, let alone participate in sports. The condition, caused by injuries to the part of the brain that controls muscle movement, hinders mobility below his waist, making sports such as baseball or football near impossible.

““You’re real limited when the kid can’t walk,” Mr. Shelton said. ““The only thing I knew to do was make him mobile.”

Cody fell into racing by default ”” his father also raced bikes ”” and at age 4 rode a motorcycle with training wheels. By 8, he was riding without them. He switched to ATVs because balancing on four wheels is easier than a motorcycle’s two.

He began competing in local races in 2002 and now competes in All Terrain Vehicle Association and World PowerSports Association events almost 25 weekends a year, participating in local events during other weekends. He receives primary sponsorship from Shelton Trucking/Construction Co.

A few days a week, Cody can be found practicing starts and perfecting turns at a private dirt track near his home on Hixson Pike. Three days a week, he meets with personal trainer Mikeal McMillan to improve core strength, flexibility and balance.

Mr. McMillan, who instructs Cody through sit-ups, push-ups and medicine-ball work, draws inspiration from his trainee.

““He is in an inherently dangerous sport,” Mr. McMillan said. ““But he’s got a dangerous attitude because he’s determined.”

Cody, often the most popular rider at events, shrugs off the idea that he’s a hero. He races for ““the fun of it. You get to hang out with all your friends at the racetrack,” he said.

Mr. Shelton puts no pressure on his son but happily plays up his accomplishments, noting the trophies and plaques that line the walls of his personal gym.

““If he just shows up to race, he’s a champion,” Mr. Shelton said. ““He improves every time he gets on the track.”

Cody’s most satisfying award came last winter when he finished fifth in his age group at the Victory Sports FMF Winter Series. For the last three races of the series, Cody competed with a broken right leg he sustained earlier when he crashed into a wall at an indoor track in North Carolina.

Pushing through adversity doesn’t faze Cody. Three times he has traveled to Poland for six days of intense therapy. And every three months, he receives four Botox injections in each of his hamstrings, paralyzing the dominant muscle to allow surrounding muscles to develop.

““It’s not easy, but he won’t fight it,” Mr. Shelton says.

On the track, though, No. 15 is a fighter. Nicknamed ““The Determinator,” Cody makes it his goal to be the first rider to the first turn each race.

He works just as hard at Loftis Middle School, where he is a sixth-grade honor-roll student. His right-hand man is classmate Garrett Gamble, who in addition to racing bikes, helps Cody with books and sees to it that he’s never left behind during school activities.

Mr. Shelton also wants to ensure Cody doesn’t fall behind, hoping someday he’ll walk without help.

““We’ll travel anywhere in the world, try anything that will help him,” Mr. Shelton said. ““We’re looking for a miracle. In the meanwhile, we’re trying to create our own.”