Tuffs by name and tough by nature, too

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 17 Mar 2018 | Latest News | Motorbikes
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Wanaka motocross rider Jody Tuffs wants to encourage anyone who has had a life-changing injury to not let it get them down. PHOTO: CATHERINE PATTISON

Just under a year after she suffered a horrific leg injury on a motocross track, Wanaka rider Jody Tuffs was back on her bike - and winning. Catherine Pattison caught up with her at home as she reflected on how far she's come.

There are several shelves in Jody Tuffs' house that are lined with trophies, but there is no medal for the toughest challenge the Wanaka motocross rider has faced.

On March 15, 2017, Tuffs was competing in the Southern Dirt Bike Series at Hedgehope track, near Invercargill, when she cleared a mound on a track and landed badly on her lower leg, driving her tibia and fibula into her ankle.

The open compound fracture caused Invercargill Hospital surgeon Pierre Nivarre to remark: ‘‘It looked like a bomb has gone off in her ankle''.

Nine months after the accident, Nivarre told Tuffs that at the time he was not certain he would be able to save her leg.

However, multiple surgeries, plates and screws later, he did. And in January, Tuffs returned to the sport she loves, winning the New Zealand Masters Games' women's motocross title in Dunedin.

‘‘It was really cool to come back. I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself,‘‘ Tuffs said, flashing her ready smile.

She had received the go-ahead from Nivarre just before Christmas and she credits him, along with Wanaka physiotherapist Brett Jenkins, her fiance Luke Bensemann and friends and family, for getting her through ‘‘a hell of a year''.

Tuffs is no stranger to accidents, having broken her back twice - once while snowboarding and once trail riding - and she threw herself into her rehabilitation.

Jenkins became ‘‘a bit of a mentor'' and, although she called him some ‘‘unprintable names'' at times, helped her to get through the painful physiotherapy sessions and remain positive.

‘‘I want to give the message to people not to let life-changing things get you down. Everyone expected me to sell my bike and give up.''

Tuffs said she had been overwhelmed by the response she received when she returned to the track.

‘‘It's a lifestyle. [My] motocross family is so supportive.''

A Central Otago Motorcycle Club member, Tuffs advocates for women's classes to be included in race programmes to make the sport more accessible.