‘Born to run’
Clayson Choate loves to hear the sound of his dirt bike come to life, the whining of the engine in a curve, the full throttle blast on a straightaway and the cheers and clapping as he comes across the finish line.
But that wasn’t always the case.
Clayson, 8, began riding a dirt bike at age 4 with his father, Van, training him with hand signals – as Clayson was legally deaf from birth.
“At two he was tested and we learned that he was legally deaf,” his mother, Josette, said. “Van worked with him using hand signals once he started practicing and Clayson picked up a few techniques on his own.”
Racing his dad in their yard on a homemade track, Clayson would pull away whenever Van would get close to him.
“I found out that he was watching my shadow,” Van said. “He would judge how close I was getting on his own in that way. He spent three years racing like that.”
Van said that once Clayson was ready, he began racing in motocross events in the 4- to 6-year-old class.
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“We had tried team sports for him, but sweating would make his hearing aids quit working,” Van said. “But racing on a dirt bike is more individual. And it gave him an outlet for independence.”
Clayson took to racing like a natural his parents said, besting some in his class older than him.
“When he was seven there were a couple of 9-year-olds that just couldn’t believe that they had been beat by a seven-year-old that couldn’t hear.”
And then, something happened that was really hard to believe – but couldn’t be denied.
“We were having a visiting pastor preach a series of services at Community Church in Orange where we attend,” Josette said. “Clayson received prayer on June 5 of last year. The next morning he woke up able to hear everything.”
Josette said that after testing by doctors they discovered that he had 100 percent hearing capacity in his right ear and 80 percent capacity in his left. This threw him for a loop at first when he went to his next race.
“We were at the qualifying race for the Ponca National Motocross in Ponca City, Okla., and he told me that it was too loud,” Van said. “But since that time, practicing and riding, his hearing adjusted.”
Now able to hear, Clayson has become an even fiercer competitor on the track, racking up wins all over the state. At Freestone in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend, Clayson took third place in the 50cc 7 to 8 class and placed second in the 50cc open class race.
At Rio Bravo in Houston this past weekend, Clayson took first place in both the 50cc 7 to 8 class and the 50cc open class races. In the 65cc 7 to 9 class he took third place and in the 65cc 7 to 11 class he placed fourth.
Currently, Clayson is training for the Ponca National Motocross on Aug. 1. And will race this Sunday at the Cowboy Badlands across Interstate 10 from Gator Country in Fannett from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
“When I’m at the starting line, I just hope that I get first,” Clayson said. “And when I take a jump I just hope I don’t land sideways. But it really isn’t that hard to land a bike.”
Van said that Clayson already talks about “going pro” one day, which won’t be possible until he is about 16 or 17, although he has already picked up a few sponsors with one being Verve energy drinks.
“If he stays on the path he is on, and proves that he can do it, he may just become a professional rider,” Van said. “When he practices, he practices to win not just to be fooling around. It is an expensive sport, but it also demands discipline.”
If you would like to see Clayson race, but can’t make it to Cowboy Badlands this Sunday, you can watch online by going to www.youtube.com and searching for “Racin Clayson.”