by Keith Hamblin
THERE was a time when Adrian Rymel thought he might never walk again. That’s why walking out onto the Berwick track for his testimonial meeting this weekend will be such a big deal.
The 35-year-old Czech star sustained serious injuries when he was involved in a high speed crash at Edinburgh last September.
He broke a bone in his neck, damaged his spine, and for a while had no feeling or movement in his legs. He had shoulder and wrist injuries, and had to go through several painful operations, all of which prompted him to announce his retirement from the sport shortly before Christmas.
But after a ten-year association with the Bandits, Berwick holds a special place in Rymel’s heart, which is why he will be making the trip from his homeland for a meeting at Shielfield on Saturday that is certain to bring a tear to the eye of a rider who was loved by fans the length and breadth of the country. Rymel vividly remembers the accident which led to his injuries and has played it over in his mind dozens of times since.
“I knew as soon as I came off it was a bad one,” he said. “I had no feeling at all, and I can remember telling the paramedics to be careful when they moved me. I was frightened, I don’t mind telling you, but the paramedics were great and they got me to hospital as quickly as they could.
“Those first few days were scary, though. I was lying flat on my back and had no feeling or movement down one side. I feared the worst and thought about what it would be like if I was going to be paralysed.
“I thought ‘s---, no more parties for me then!’ I was so full of morphine I was totally spaced out. But gradually the feeling came back and once I knew there was a chance of recovery I thought ‘right, come on Adrian, let’s go for it’.”
After early rehabilitation in the spinal unit at Glasgow Southern General Hospital, Rymel decided to discharge himself and fly home to the Czech Republic, where he knew he would be closer to his family.
“It was a hard decision to do that,” he recalled, “because the doctors and the staff had been so good to me. I also had a lot of people coming in to see me, and had received hundreds of ‘get well’ cards. But in my heart I knew that I wanted to go home.”
It’s been a long, slow road to recovery for Rymel, who is now back on his feet walking a little bit further every day. ‘‘At first I thought I might never walk again,” he said. “It was a scary moment to think that, like so many other speedway riders, I might end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. But I didn’t want that to happen to me and now I am making a bit of progress.”
Rymel is now undergoing treatment on a regular basis at a clinic in the Czech Republic. He attends for physiotherapy on a daily basis during the week and is allowed home at weekends.
He is developing his walking and cycling, but is still having problems with his right hand, which he cannot clench into a fist yet. At first the former World Cup rider announced that he was taking a year out to help with his recuperation, but four months ago he revealed that he had decided to call it a day and hang up his leathers for good.
“That was another hard decision to make,” he said. “But I had to be realistic and accept that my racing days are over.”
Rymel first arrived on these shores with fellow countrymen Michal Makovsky and Josef ‘Pepe’ Franc back in 2001.
And for that reason alone it will be fitting that both those riders should be in the line-up for his testimonial, which will take the form of a four-team tournament involving riders from England, Australia, Denmark and of course the Czech Republic.
The Czechs will also include Tom Topinka and new Bandits signing Hynek Stichauer. Australia will comprise Kevin Doolan, Mark Lemon, Kozza Smith and Josh Gracjzonek. Denmark will have Kenni Larsen, Rene Bach, Mads Kornielussen and Peter Kilderman, whilst England will be represented by Lee Complin, Joe Screen, Edward Kennet and Craig Cook.
There is also a chance that former Berwick riders David Meldrum, who now lives in America, and Rob Grant will take to the track at some point.
“They are all riders I have raced against over the years and I am delighted that they are turning out for me,” said Rymel.
“There has been a strong group of people who have been working away behind the scenes to make this happen and I would like to thank them all for their help. If it wasn’t for them this meeting wouldn’t be taking place.”
All proceeds from the meeting will go to Rymel, and the fund will also be boosted by a number of other events organised over the past few months including a forum, a sponsored walk up Ben Lomond and the sale of Adrian Rymel DVDs. “I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everyone again,” said Rymel. “Speedway has been part of my life for a long time now and I know I will miss it, but I have to accept this is how it is.
“Hopefully all the fans will come along and enjoy themselves - there is even a party being organised afterwards.”