Amputee Athlete Cycles Across Cambodia

Chris Moon’s bicycle seat breaks off on a bridge in Banteay Mean­chey province’s Sisophon town, pitch­ing the British landmine am­putee and his specially-made bicycle sideways.

Moon throws out his hook—attached to his prosthetic right arm—and manages to snag a piece of metal on the side of the bridge.

Now he is stabilized, but stuck: his prosthetic arm is lodged in the bridge and his shoes are clipped to the pedals.

He looks up and sees a truck headed his way.

Moon’s latest fund-raising stint—bicycling 900 km across Cambodia, Poipet to Phnom Penh, between Sept 1 and Sept 7 to raise money for disability—rights organization Cambodia’s Trust—was not without its bumps in the road.

But what is momentarily harrowing becomes the next day’s fodder for a good laugh in 44-year-old Moon’s world, and he recounts the entire tale with a grin.

“Don’t worry,” Moon said in an interview after his arrival in Phnom Penh, recalling how he wriggled his arm out of the bridge and away from danger just in time. “It was all downhill from there.”

Moon initially came to Cam­bodia to clear mines in 1993, with the British NGO Halo Trust.

At that time, he was exposed to the “terrible circumstances in which Cam­bo­dian disabled people struggled to survive,” according to his Web site.

Two years later, in 1995, he stepped on a landmine in a supposedly cleared area of Mozam­bique and lost part of his right arm and leg.

While Moon wouldn’t learn the importance of artificial limbs firsthand until after his accident, it was on that first stay in Cam­bodia that he became ac­quain­ted with his own will to live.

Working in a minefield outside of Pursat province in 1993, Moon and his two Cambodian colleagues were ambushed and taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge.

“Those first negotiations were just a Khmer/English dictionary, him and me,” Moon recalls of his early conversations with his captor.

“It was the first time in my life I thought about every move, every gesture, every thought.”

After three days, Moon successfully negotiated their escape, and walked 50 km overnight through the rebel-patrolled jungle.

Moon recalls the traumatic experience, saying, “I was well aware of the danger we were in and knew it was quite likely we would be killed.”

But he is also sure to add a characteristic moment of pure optimism: “I did keep thinking, ‘At least now, I actually get to see the forest.’”

Not two years after his first brush with death, Moon was faced with the prospect of life with two artificial limbs.

Once again, he thought positively and aimed high.

Less than a year after leaving hospital, he completed the Lon­don marathon with his new prosthetic arm and leg, and has run more than 30 mara­thons since then.

What Moon discovered in the jungle—the ability to control his thoughts and focus on the positive—he strengthened while learning to cope with his disability.

Psychological discipline is also necessary for his athletic feats, especially when a marathon run turns into more of what he calls a “limp/stagger” near the end.

Now, when he is not busy raising money or spending time with his family in Scotland, Moon continues to benefit from his mastery of the mind.

He and his wife run their own company, called Make The Best, through which Moon gives keynote speeches on motivation and managing change.

He also conducts training sessions and workshops geared toward leadership development and problem solving.

Moon lives and works according to a personalized version of the glass-half-full mentality.

“I think with my left side,” he says, waving his left hand in the air. “Not my right,” he adds, gesturing with his prosthetic arm.

“It’s kind of like mind over matter, but it’s more like, ‘If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.’”

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