Extreme athlete taking wheelchair to new heights

Aaron Fotheringham takes on skate parks of all sizes while riding in a wheelchair. CBS News

IRVING, Texas - In the world of extreme sports, there is no one like 22-year-old Aaron Fotheringham. He can flip, spin and hand-plant, all in a wheelchair.

"You always hear, 'Ah, he's in a wheelchair... oh, he's confined to his wheelchair,'" Fotheringham told CBS News. "I'm always like, I'm not confined, you know. I'm riding it like a skateboard or a bike. And I love it."

Fotheringham was born with spina bifida, a spinal cord defect that left him without the use of his legs.

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Aaron Fotheringham takes on skate parks of all sizes while riding in a wheelchair.
CBS News

Even as a baby, his condition didn't slow him down. A home video shows him crawling like he's late for something.

By age 8, he was learning tricks at the skate park.

In 2010, he landed the first-ever wheelchair double backflip.

"When I landed the double backflip, it was the best moment of my life," Fotheringham told CBS News. "When someone says you shouldn't or you can't, it kind of makes you want to do it even more."

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By age 8, Fotheringham was riding his wheelchair at the skate park.

That's why last year, he attempted California's so-called "Mega Ramp."

"You're in the air for so long and for me that's what it's all about. I'm just getting my frequent flier miles and having fun," Fotheringham said, referring to jumping the gargantuan ramp, then crashing back down to earth. "But landing is the hard part."

He's never down for long. Fotheringham is now a star performer in Nitro Circus, an extreme sports show. He goes by the nickname "Wheelz."

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Fotheringham helps to inspire children in wheelchairs to push the limits.
But it's at events with children, like one held recently outside Dallas, where Fotheringham really connects with fans. He has teamed up with volunteers to encourage children in wheelchairs to push the limits.

Eleven-year-old Luke Acuna, who lost his left leg when he was hit by a garbage truck three years ago, has learned an important lesson from Fotheringham. "Never give up," Luke said. "If you fall and you hit it really hard, get back up and do it again."

"There's just so much happiness floating around," Fotheringham said. "So it's cool seeing these kids how much they can accomplish and breaking all the stereotypes. It's rad."

Fotheringham is now thinking about the next trick that will impress an audience already captivated by the fact that while he cannot walk, he can soar.

  • Manuel Bojorquez

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