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U.S. Racer Bret Whitman Injured in Fall From Roof

Florida Skater Faces Long Recovery

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

2006 was shaping up to be an exciting year for U.S. speed skater Bret Whitman.

On the race course, the 27-year-old Floridian was preparing to lead the newly created Fila USA team into battle against the Hyper squad. (His first race was supposed to be Saturday's Mardi Gras Inline Marathon in Lafayette, La.)

In the business world, Whitman was working with his company, Champion Skate Supply, to introduce Fila skates to the U.S. market.

But after an accident Monday, Whitman's plans, especially on the race course, are in doubt.

While working in the Miami area, Whitman fell from a second-story roof. He landed on his feet on a cement driveway. The impact broke his left ankle and wrist and shattered the bones in both of his heels.

He was treated and released at Memorial Regional Medical Center in Hollywood, Fla., but was readmitted yesterday for further treatment.

Doctors plan to operate on his feet when the swelling subsides in a couple of weeks. They say metal pins will be needed to reconstruct his heel bones.

After surgery, Whitman will undergo months of rehabilitation and physical therapy. Even then, he may not be able to race again, one of his doctor said.

"He's trying to keep up his hopes that he will be able to skate again," said his business partner, Chal Love. "But he's having a difficult time. ... What we are sure of is that it's going to be a while before he skates again."

Whitman, who lives in Pembroke, Fla., started skating when he was 10. In the last several years, he has emerged as one of the top inline speed skaters in North America.

Last year, he won both the St. Paul and Ottawa marathons. He also finished in the top 20 in three World Inline Cup events.

But these days, skating only pays the bills for members of the top World Cup teams. So Whitman, like most other racers, relies on other sources of income.

About five months ago, he started a business painting and power-cleaning buildings. He was giving an estimate for a power-cleaning job when he fell Monday.

Unfortunately, like many self-employed workers, Whitman has no health insurance.

His friends are mounting an effort to raise money to pay his medical bills. The fund drive will include a three-event East Coast race series.

"We are really hoping to get people to help out," said Love. "We're just trying to get Bret through this."

(Contribute to the Bret Whitman Medical Fund.)

(Posted on Feb. 22, 2006)


Related links

• Contribute to the Bret Whitman Medical Fund.

• Go to story: Fila Skates Come to U.S. Market

Update: Whitman Undergoes Surgery
Surgeons used three screws, a steel rod and a metal plate Saturday to repair inline racer Bret Whitman's left foot. Whitman injured his feet in a work accident three weeks in Florida. "The objective of the surgery was to avoid fusing any bones together to preserve range of motion," said his business partner Chal Love. Whitman will be off his feet for the next three months. His right foot is in a cast. Skaters have donated $2449 to his medical fund. (March 13, 2006)


Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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