Freddy Tylicki: Paralysed rider has no regrets on becoming a jockey

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Freddy Tylicki talks about having no regrets during his riding career.

Freddy Tylicki says he has no regrets about becoming a jockey despite a fall last year that left him paralysed from the waist down.

Tylicki was injured in a four-horse pile-up at Kempton on 31 October.

Speaking to the BBC's 5 live Daily, he says he was born to be a jockey and "wouldn't regret it one day".

The 30-year-old, who has not watched a replay of his fall, said "things were sometimes very difficult" but he was focused on staying positive.

'There's always someone worse than you'

Tylicki's life changed forever at what should have been a mundane Monday meeting at Kempton Park in Surrey.

He fell heavily from his mount, Nellie Dean, when appearing to clip heels with leader and eventual winner Madame Butterfly as the field rounded the home turn.

"A few of my colleagues have watched the fall - I haven't myself," he said. "They were saying I'm actually very lucky to be here.

"There's no point for me to watch it. I was there, that's enough. I do remember everything. Unfortunately that's racing in a way."

Freddy Tylicki
Tylicki was the champion apprentice jockey in Britain in 2009

Tylicki spent a fortnight in intensive care and left hospital in late December to continue his rehabilitation at the London Spinal Cord Unit, with support from the Injured Jockeys' Fund.

"When you're in hospital things are very, very tough. You move on to rehab then and you get to learn these new skills and new ways of doing everything," he said.

The change cannot be overstated - from riding thoroughbreds at 30mph to life in a wheelchair. Tylicki is philosophical.

"You are having to accept things in a different way, which can trouble you. You've got good days and bad days, but at the moment I'm taking every day as it comes. For me that's the best way to handle the situation," he added.

"There's always someone worse than you. You've just got to do the best you can out of the situation. Staying positive is the main thing. It can be hard sometimes and easier other days. You've just got to learn how to deal with it."

'I knew I was in trouble'

Tylicki broke 18 ribs in the fall, but most significant of all was the T7 paralysis, which meant he no longer had movement in the lower half of his body.

"The first time I woke up after the operation - I was lying in bed and I knew I couldn't feel anything. That's when I knew I was in trouble," he said.

"Shortly after that, the doctor filled me in on what happened - the injuries I'd received. I just had to get cracking from then on."

Exercises and physiotherapy now form part of his daily routine. Being shown how to dress himself, make his bed, go swimming and drive a car are all part of his rehabilitation.

"Each individual here has a timetable and you'll be kept busy until 5 o'clock," he said.

"You get to learn an awful lot. Having had a certain level of fitness before has helped me massively in some ways.

"I'm living my life day to day. The immune system is very low and infections can happen easily, but I'm concentrating on my rehab and physio."

He has been reading a lot, with a book on gambler Barney Curley - a present from trainer Jamie Osborne - next on his list.

'Born to be a jockey'

Freddy Tylicki
A fund set up to help Tylicki raised more than £330.000

Tylicki was born in Germany, the son of three-time German champion jockey Andrzej.

"I was born to do it. My father was a very, very good jockey and from a very young age I decided to go down that route," he said.

"I saw the ups and downs and the toughness of the job but from around 12 years of age I knew I was going to be a jockey."

Tylicki Jr was champion apprentice in Britain in 2009 and his career was on an upward curve, winning the Group One Prix de l'Opera race on Speedy Boarding at Chantilly in France just a few weeks before his Kempton fall.

"I had some very good years and some lovely winners, especially last year winning the Prix de l'Opera was definitely the icing on the cake," he said.

The risks and rewards of riding

Tylicki said racing had given him "a tremendous way of life" and he was aware of the dangers despite falls being relatively rare in Flat racing.

"I think if you ask any Flat jockey they'd agree the jump jockeys are much braver than us Flat lads - one in every 10 rides is a fall. They're much, much tougher," he said.

"On the Flat you're going at great speed so when you do get a fall it's always 'how bad it is?' and this time I didn't get away with it.

"Accidents do happen in racing. It's a risky sport and you're aware of it as a jockey, but you don't think about it. Things can happen.

"When you've won on a few horses that absolutely took off with you - there's nothing better than that. I'm glad I've experienced that."

'The support I've been getting is tremendous'

A GoFundMe page to raise money to help Tylicki's recovery, set up by At The Races television presenter Matt Chapman, collected more than £330,000.

He has been visited by a variety of jockeys and trainers, and received widespread support on social media from racing fans.

"The racing community is little compared to everything else in the world but there's some fantastic people in it - the support I've been getting is tremendous and unbelievable," he said.

"I don't quite know how to thank everyone. It's been absolutely amazing."

Sister's success 'fantastic for the family'

Madeleine Tylicki with Punchestown winner First To Boogie
Madeleine Tylicki with Punchestown winner First To Boogie

Tylicki's sister Madeleine won her first race as a trainer three weeks after her brother's accident.

"It really was just pretty amazing," he said. "I was listening to it on my phone in bed and when the horse crossed the line I Facetimed her. Davy Russell, who rode the horse, answered the phone to me and said: 'This one's for you Freddy.'

"It was a fantastic feeling for the whole family but especially Madeleine and her partner Andrew."

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