“I’m kind of sick of the stereotype. You know, you’re on a wheelchair. It’s not a prison.” It’s a statement that only confirms my expectation – my fear, even – that singling Aaron Fotheringham out as “other” in any way is wrong and clumsy.
It’s a bright but chilly afternoon in London, and I’m sat in a hotel lobby, chatting to the man known by most as Wheelz. He’s a star of Nitro Circus, up there with Travis Pastrana and Ryan Williams as one of the most popular, and instantly recognisable members of the high octane team. His YouTube videos regularly get viewing figures in the hundreds of thousands. He’s a pioneer, and an innovator. In many ways, a Superhuman. He is also on – not in – a wheelchair.
Born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal chord, Wheelz has never had complete use of his legs. It’s a condition that a lot of people don’t know about. Wheelz is one of them. “I hear little blurbs about what it does or whatever,” he tells me when I ask what he knows about it. “It’s just who I am. I never really dwelled on it. It’s just normal to me, so I never really cared to find out more.”
It strikes me as an answer typical of the man, albeit spending only a short amount of time in his company. The softly spoken 24 year old comes across as being equally happy and humble – a million miles away from the brash larger-than-life personality of peers like Travis Pastrana. He’s half way through a day full of press and interviews, and I get the impression that Wheelz is slightly bemused as to what all the fuss is about.
“At school I would get bullied…”