SOUTH BEND -- Lisa Banasiewicz was working the concession stand at The Kitchen BMX Skatepark when she heard a roar.
She walked out to see what was going on and saw her son, BMX champion Brett Banasiewicz, attempt a flair move less than two weeks after he returned from a brain injury rehabilitation center in Dallas, where he has been recovering from a serious injury suffered during practice last August.
Banasiewicz went airborne on the ramp, and fell. His mother turned around and went back to the concession stand.
“I couldn’t watch,” she said.
Banasiewicz tried the move 14 times, and fell 14 times.
On his 15th attempt, Banasiewicz raced up the ramp. He pulled off a stunning mid-air turn and perfect landing. He sped down the ramp. He glided up another ramp, pulled off a mid-air turn and lateral move and landed perfectly again.
He sped to the top of another ramp, put his fist in the air and triumphantly kicked away the blue DK BMX bike.
“If you had any questions about his courage and determination, watch the video of the flair,” said Banasiewicz’s father, Bill.
Banasiewicz returned to South Bend at the end of June to continue his recovery at Memorial Outpatient Therapy Services. After suffering the injury in Virginia Beach, Va., Banasiewicz was put in a medically induced coma to help reduce bleeding and swelling in the brain.
It’s been an arduous journey for Banasiewicz, who has used the competitive fires that have burned so bright in X Games competition to tackle his recovery.
“He has had to learn to swallow, walk, talk, eat,” Lisa Banasiewicz said. “We just say, every day, we’re so glad you’re here. We’re just going to have fun. Brett’s always been very stubborn and determined. His strength and determination used to drive me nuts when he was a little boy, but it’s made him the man he is.
“He doesn’t have fear.”
Banasiewicz, who threw out the first pitch before Saturday’s South Bend Silver Hawks game, has a labored walk that he is working to improve. He was able to say a few words last Thanksgiving. In the past month, he has gotten to the point where he can speak sentences in a whisper-quiet voice.
Despite being barely audible, despite losing 50 pounds off his athletic frame, despite having a bike stolen from his mother’s house that he planned to use in his rehab, Banasiewicz sports a smile and still displays his playful nature.
“It feels great to be home,” Banasiewicz said. “Everyone around me is positive. That keeps me positive.”
Banasiewicz, who has placed as high as fourth in the X Games, is determined to soar off competitive BMX ramps and feel the wind against his face again.
“It means a lot to be back on a bike,” Banasiewicz said. “I’m getting a feeling for the mechanics of riding again. I want to ride more and more every day. I’m going to ride Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Banasiewicz is planning on getting involved in The Kitchen BMX Skatepark that he and friends and family designed and built at 3300 Sample St. in South Bend (behind South Bend Chocolate Factory). He has also been invited to be a judge at the X Games in China.
“That’s going to be great,” Banasiewicz said of going to the X Games. “It will mean a lot to be there and see everyone. It feels good to still a part of BMX.”
Lisa Banasiewicz said that the BMX community has rallied around Brett.