BOZEMAN – Keaton Ward’s passion for motocross started when he was very young.
“My cousin raced, and it really got me into it. I was excited and wanted to ride then and started to ride then, and one thing kind of led to another,” said Ward. “I just started racing and kind of kept growing from there.”
Ward was a natural, winning races throughout his youth and turning pro in motocross at age 18. But in 2016 his life changed.
In the final lap of a race, Ward fell hard after knuckling a jump. He tore his throat, collapsed both his lungs and fractured his neck and wrist. He spent nearly three weeks in the hospital and 10 of those days in the ICU. His career almost ended, but he was determined to get back on a bike.
“It’s something that I’ve done for so long and I love that if you don’t have it in your life it kind of sucks,” said Ward.
But this winter, the Bozeman native is back and better than ever, training every day behind the Bridger Mountains to get ready for a race on the world’s biggest stage, the Winter X Games.
“Growing up watching Winter X Games is always a really cool deal coming. I was into snow sports and then the snow bikes kind of popped up and a year later, he we are,” said Ward.
The now 23-year-old qualified for the Games on snow bikes, a sport that takes a motocross bike and replaces the front wheel with a ski and the back wheel with a track. Ward’s competitors know he is already one of the favorites to bring home a medal.
“I think he can be the best, I think he really has a chance to be the best guy on snow bikes,” said Josh Hill, a silver medalist in the Summer X Games, who will be competing in the Winter X Games Snow Bike event. “He definitely has a chance of beating me. He’s got a chance at beating everybody, I think. Definitely I think he should expect a medal out of himself. He’s going to be one of the top contenders at X Games.”
But he couldn’t have done this without his support system.
“My parents from the beginning, my sister and her husband, my brother-in-law, are helping a bunch, and Steve Miller from SCS kind of helped put this whole deal together for me,” Keaton said.
The Snow BikeCross event kicks off on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on ABC. The Bozeman biker will be eyeing the podium.
“It’d be awesome to medal the first year,” said Ward. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”