Sandriana Shipman: The Girl is All Right!
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2018) - 23-year-old Sandriana Shipman entered this American Flat Track season determined to take the next step forward in her career. After proving she belonged with the world’s dirt track elite by making the main and securing her first AFT Singles points at last year’s Calistoga Half-Mile, Shipman appeared well poised for a breakthrough campaign in 2018.
But just when meeting those lofty expectations looked to be well within her reach, with Shipman throwing down qualifying times that put her inside the top ten at this year’s Texas Half-Mile, it all came apart. She lost the front in the second qualifying session and was struck by another rider, resulting in a litany of injuries.
Shipman (55) ripping in Texas, right before her horrific crash.
Her season ended prematurely in Fort Worth, cut short less than three full rounds in. The damage she suffered left some wondering whether the same might eventually be said of her professional career.
Then again, ‘Hurricane Sandy’ Shipman has taken to her rehab like a genuine force of nature. She’s not only actively preparing to make a comeback but do so sooner than anyone could have predicted.
Sandriana took a break from her physical therapy long enough to update AmericanFlatTrack.com on her remarkable progress.
AFT: Hopefully it’s not too painful to revisit, but what do you remember about the crash?
SS: It was a real simple crash itself. The track was pretty tricky; that day everyone was crashing at the start. The big problem for me was getting ran over – that made everything worse. It was bad; I immediately knew my leg was broken. I’d broken the same leg nine years ago, and had a plate put in then, so it was a similar ‘Oh, here we go again’ feeling. They had to remove the plate to put the rod inside my femur. I guess I needed a hardware update; I was due for an upgrade! [Laughs]
Can you run down the laundry list of injuries you suffered in the incident?
I broke my right femur, my right wrist, and all four metacarpals in my left hand, as well as lacerating my liver and bruising my lung. Yeah. It wasn't too fun having that all happen at once. I've dealt with plenty of injuries, and I've broken bones before, but to have all of that at once was really, really frustrating.
How many surgeries did you have as a result?
I had my leg done that night. And then I had to wait quite a few days for a specialist to come in for my hand. No one wanted to touch my hand because it was so bad. I had to wait until that following Thursday, which, thank goodness, the doctor did a great job.
The images you posted of your hand on social media were pretty gory...
Yeah. It looks a lot better now. We're still working on it, but I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along.
So where are you with your rehabilitation? People were amazed at how healthy you looked when they ran into you in the paddock at Lima last weekend.
I've been working really hard on PT three days a week. My physical therapist is really on board as far as what my goals are and what I'm trying to do, and basically just understanding that I'm not an average person who is trying to sit on the couch and slowly get back into things.
That said, I'm not stupidly pushing it, either. I'm actually being really smart about these injuries compared to when I was younger [when I] just pushed to get back on the bike as quickly as possible at any cost. This time I'm being smart about it even though everyone thinks it's so soon.
My healing is actually coming along great and my rehab is going really well. My hand was the last piece of the puzzle to put together. It was the last thing that came out of a cast. We just started therapy on that about two weeks ago, but it's getting there. I think we're going to start riding tomorrow, actually.
Shipman at Daytona this past March, when things looked really promising...
Wow. It sounds like you’re well ahead of schedule...
Honestly, they did not want to give me any schedule whatsoever. One, because they didn't know, and two, because they knew me as a person. They didn't want to make any predictions early or late, because they knew we'd just be going off of how I felt. As long as my bones were actually healed, and my recovery was going well, we knew we’d just playing it by ear, basically.
And here we are. My leg is perfectly fine, my wrist feels like I didn't even do anything to it, and I’ve really been working on my hand. I'll be able to hold onto the handlebars.
So what’s next? Do you have a set plan in place for your return?
Well, I’ll be getting back on a bike this week, just to see how everything feels. Depending on how that goes, and how comfortable I feel, who knows? I can see myself possibly joining the AFT tour later in the season, but right now it’s a bit up in the air. I certainly want to.
How frustrating was it to get hurt just when you were starting to really show your potential?
It was really tough. I was actually riding for myself at Texas, not for Waters Autobody. They weren’t able to make that race, so I was on my personal bike, which I'm really comfortable on, and it was just working really well for me. I hadn’t had much time on their bike at that point and wasn’t quite as comfortable on it. But to be able to go to Texas and turn those fast lap times straight out in qualifying... I was happy. I was really positive for the season ahead. It was an unfortunate situation, big time.
Would you have continued to ride your own bike from that point forward had you not gotten injured?
The plan was to get back on the Waters bike. They were going to meet me out in Arizona and Sacramento. It was a bit of a limited schedule as far as what they could make it to, and then I was going to ride for myself at the other rounds. There's nothing negative there; it’s just racing.
Was it tough to be away from the AFT paddock for that long?
Lima was the first race I’d been to since I got hurt. It was great to be out there. During the week, I was at Johnny Lewis’ 10 Training Camp in Ohio, just helping out a little bit. And then it was really cool to be at Lima and see everybody. It's such a great event. It's really entertaining.
I felt comfortable being there, like I was back at home. All the rounds before it, it was just a matter of making sure I was able to make it to physical therapy and traveling wouldn't have worked too well. This weekend at Weedsport, being that I'm from New York – even though it's about four hours upstate – it's more or less a hometown race for me, so I’ll be there.
A lot of my friends and my fans will be going to that, so I want to make my presence known. I want to talk to fans, let everyone know what's going on, and make time for people who were looking forward to seeing me at the round.
I want to get a little social media push going. I want to use my platform more, as far as being a female and such, instead of just revolving around the racing part of it. Now I understand that in pro racing it's so much more than that.
Signing autographs and hanging with fans at the Atlanta Short Track.
I’d imagine you’d like to give a special shout out to the Class of ’79 for the help they provided you, as they’ve done for so many other injured riders over the years.
Ab-so-lutely. They helped out so much. It's incredible what they do. I'm still using what they gave to me to live off of. There's no way I'd be able to work right now. Yes, I'm walking around and going to therapy now, but I can't work every day. There's just no way.
Has this experience changed your outlook on racing at all?
My motivation hasn't changed. I've had so many injuries before. I broke my back last year at the Atlanta round, and I raced the next weekend at Charlotte. Pushing through and persevering is just something I've always done. I keep looking at the goal, and I don't let anything knock me over.
When I'm at home laying on the couch, I'm thinking, 'Yeah, this sucks right now, but every day is going to get better, and I'm that much closer to getting back to doing what I love and doing what I know how to do best.’
I have to admit this was the first time in my entire life that I did contemplate retirement. First time ever. It had never even come into my head before. But in the ambulance that day, I was like, 'Wow, my body can't take this anymore. I have to stop.'
But then I thought some more and realized, no, I don't have to stop. There's unfinished business for me out on the racetrack. I absolutely have unfinished business. There's so much more to do.
You’re unable to work full-time right now. What are you doing to support yourself and your racing?
Yes, thanks for asking. I’ll be selling my T-shirts at Weedsport this weekend to help out financially, as I have things I need to secure going forward: new leathers (as they had to cut mine off me!), bike fixes, etc. I have a Facebook page (Sandriana Shipman) that fans can check out. The shirts are really cool; they’re black with my name and number on them.
I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone at Weedsport this weekend! I’m from New York, so it feels good to be able to say hello to everyone during the races and the Fan Walk. I’ll have my EZ Up, so please keep an eye out for me and come say hi!