Tyrone Gilks dies training for motorbike jump record

Australian freestyle motocross rider Tyrone Gilks, 19, died Wednesday night in Australia after suffering injuries in a crash while practicing distance jumps of more than 280 feet at the Maitland Showground.

"Paramedics were called at 10.35 a.m. after reports a 19-year-old had come off his motorbike," according to a report in the local newspaper, The Maitland Mercury. Gilks was treated for chest injuries at the scene and then rushed to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, where he was listed in critical condition. He died at approximately 8 p.m. local time.

The young rider was scheduled to make a world record long distance attempt Saturday at the Maitland Bike & Hotrod Show, aiming to push the ramp-to-dirt record on a 250cc bike past 310 feet. He had been aiming for 330 feet and dubbed the project Operation 330. Earlier this week, he shared a photo of himself clearing a 200-foot gap on his blog with the note, "Hit my distance ramp for the first time in 4 years today and for the first time on my YZ 250 #projectbike ... Happy kid."

Gilks spoke with XGames.com about the jump last week, noting challenges about training for such an event.

"Due to the magnitude and size of the setup that is required, it limits the amount of training I can actually do," he said.

Gilks had previously set distance records on smaller bikes, including an 80cc bike when he was 11, 12 and 16 years old. Ryan Capes set the 250cc two-stroke ramp-to-dirt distance record at 310.4 feet in 2005. Alex Harvill pushed the 450cc four-stroke record to 425 feet in 2012, inspiring Gilks to return to the distance game.

"Just heartbroken," Gilks' agent Lucas Mirtl, of LM Action Sports Management, wrote on Facebook on Thursday morning. "Our memories will live forever and be right there in my thoughts until we meet again. Love you, brother!"

Filmmaker Jay Schweitzer has been working on a documentary on the history of long distance motocross jumping and first filmed Gilks in 2005, when he set a record jumping an 80cc bike on the same day that Capes set the 250cc record at 310 feet.

"Tyrone was gnarly: I had the opportunity to film his 85cc distance record when he opened up for Ryan Capes in 2005 when Tyrone was just 12 years old," Schweitzer told XGames.com. "He was really following in the footsteps of guys like Ryan Capes and Robbie Maddison."

Gilks had X Games and Red Bull X-Fighters ambitions and traveled to the United States to train in 2012, aiming to make a bigger mark on the international freestyle motocross scene. He was sponsored by JC Clothing Company, Yamaha Australia, Fox, Lusty Industries, Von Zipper, Ogio, Ethika, GoPro, ODI grips and Pro-Moto Suspension and had recently been riding in top form, Schweitzer said, landing "130-foot natural terrain flips and just about every trick in the book."

"Distance jumping is the gnarliest thing in action sports – it's way gnarlier than big wave surfing or anything else, because they're going bigger and they're landing on a solid – and there's really only like five dudes in the world who are even doing distance jumping at all," Schweitzer said. "How many guys are jumping over 300 feet? Four, maybe five. How many are jumping over 400 feet? Two. Tyrone was headed there and was really exciting to watch, but I personally don't want to see any more of these crashes."

The Australian motocross community took to Twitter on Thursday morning to express condolences. "19 years young," wrote Cam Sinclair. "Dirt bikes can be so cruel sometimes." X Games gold medalist Jackson Strong wrote, "You did more in 19 years than many do in a life."

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