Born on the 17th of October 1938, in the American state of Montana, Robert Craig Knievel Junior (aka Evel Knievel) went on to become the world's most famous and iconic stunt performer. The ultimate daredevil in life, and the embodiment of the "go big, or go home" mantra, Knievel relished the opportunity to point his motorcycle at ramps and fly through the air like an eagle at every available opportunity.
Were his stunts always successful? No. Knievel failed in his attempt to jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium on his motorbike (in front of 90,000-strong crowd), he crashed in rehearsals for a stunt involving a tank full of live sharks, he hit the bottom of Snake River Canyon after trying to fly across it in a rocket. According to an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, he had suffered an astonishing 433 bone fractures by the end of 1975; making that time you broke your arm falling off a friend's slide look pretty tame in comparison.
"You're Never A Failure Until You Fail To Get Up"
Man, myth, legend. During his career, Knievel diced with death so many times and came away from the encounters still breathing that, throughout his peak years as a stunt performer, he gave off a feeling of invincibility; a sense that he couldn't be killed. He eventually passed in 2007, aged 69, of pulmonary disease.
Knievel may be gone, but the things he did and said in life will never be forgotten. Travis Pastrana and his Nitro Circus crew, the TV show Jackass, and a whole heap of people in action sports owe him a debt of gratitude for paving the way forward. Here's some of the most memorable quotes from the man himself.
1) “Bones heal, pain is temporary, and chicks dig scars."
2) You're never a failure until you fail to get up."
3) “If a guy hasn't got any gamble in him - he isn't worth a crap."
4) “When you do what I do for a living you have to have a positive mental attitude; when that positive mental attitude isn't enough to get you across that jump you have to be man enough to deal with the circumstances. In my case, I'm man enough."
5) “I would always rather be in the arena fighting than be a spectator."
6) “I did everything by the seat of my pants. That's why I got hurt so much."
7) “Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it."
8) "You come to a point in your life when you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself."
9) "I thought I was bulletproof or Superman there for a while. I thought I'd never run out of nerve. Never."
10) "There are a lot of myths about my injuries. They say I have broken every bone in my body. Not true. But I have broken 35 bones. I had surgery 14 times to pin and plate. I shattered my pelvis. I forget all of the things that have broke."
11) "I think I coulda landed on a dime. I really do."
12) "I guess I thought I was Elvis Presley but I'll tell ya something. All Elvis did was stand on a stage and play a guitar. He never fell off on that pavement at no 80 mph."
13) "Where there is little risk, there is little reward"
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