Bruce Cook's Nitro Circus Live debut changed his life -- just not in the way he had expected.
"I knew I had broken my back right off the bat," Cook says. "It was a terrifying and scary moment."
While performing a double-front flip on his motorbike January 3, 2014, Cook broke his T-11 vertebra and became paralyzed from the waist down. He was 26.
"It was crazier than anything I've ever done," Cook says. "The forward rotation, it's not a natural rotation for the bike, so to come around and land like that, regardless, is a really hard impact."
The trick is so complicated, the Nitro Circus gang, Travis Pastrana's "action sport collective," needed to build a special ramp that would add an extra kick to the back tire of the bike, helping it flip forward. Cook practiced the trick numerous times into a foam pit, but when the big show came, disaster struck.
"Even if I landed on tires, we didn't know how it was going to go," Cook says. "I landed vertically, basically slid off the back of my bike, and literally folded in half."
Despite the life-threatening crash, Cook said he wasn't discouraged.
"I was literally getting wheeled out of the arena still and I knew that I didn't want my last show to be me getting wheeled out on a stretcher," he says. "I wanted to ride again."
It took less than a year for Cook to ride again. His new bike has a couple of modifications that allow him to have full control, thanks to his good friend Billy Van Vught. Now Cook appears in a different city every weekend performing with Nitro Circus, riding his modified bike and still performing death-defying tricks.
"It’s at least one, and up to three shows every weekend, so it's a lot of flips," he says.
"There's definitely people that don't understand why I'd want to get back on a bike, I mean, it's literally the thing that almost killed me. Those people don't understand the passion I have."
On Oct. 14, 2015, Cook became the first paraplegic to land a backflip. Cook's entire story has been made into a documentary "Never Say Can’t," which aired on NBC on July 10.
"Basically, it started out that I was going to make a few-minute video, kinda post it on social media," he says. "From there, after a couple months and meetings, we decided it should be a full-length documentary."
The film could help generate more opportunities for Cook.
"I definitely want to start doing some speaking, looking into TED talks," he says. "I want to have a platform to share my story and share my message."
After coming back to perform despite paralysis, Cook shouldn't find public speaking to be so scary.
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-- Wheelchair Motocross Athlete Pulls Off Unbelievable Front Flip At Nitro Circus
Follow Mac Benson on Twitter @MacMBenson.