The resolve to stand firm in the face of adversity is a rare and admirable quality—rarer still to discover it in a 15-year-old boy; yet one would be hard pressed to find a greater avatar of determination than that of Nikolas Thompson.
Looking at him, a man might be forgiven for regarding Nikolas as merely another teenager. His hair is short, his cheeks are bare, and his body carries itself with a smallness of frame that implies it hasn’t quite reached its full height. It’s a look that is held by millions of adolescents across the world, but appearances can be deceiving; for while most kids his age might have a learner’s permit, Nikolas has been racing motorcycles since he was five years old.
Yes, Nikolas is a racer. Racing is his passion. It’s the reason he gets up in the morning and the reason he goes to bed. And, as Nikolas puts it, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Last year there was a death in one of the races. It happened right behind me,” Nikolas said. “It happens. It’s unfortunate, but anyone who swings their leg over a motorcycle risks it. It’s because they love it. Probably anyone else would pack up their things and go.”
Most kindergarteners don’t have access to a motorcycle. It takes a rare breed of parent to stick their five-year-old on a 50 cubic centimeter engine and let them run loose. If it weren’t for Nikolas’ parents, Michael and Shanea Thompson, then Nikolas might never have found his passion in the first place. It’s thanks to their tireless labor that they’ve managed to keep their son in top of the line safety equipment and competitive level gear.
And the challenges don’t stop at the financial. At a recent race, Nikolas crashed. Hard. He was going at 110 miles per hour and a collision from another racer sent him spiraling across the tarmac. He broke a knuckle, a finger, and walked away with a concussion, and for that he counted himself lucky; it was thanks to his safety gear that he survived at all.
“It was awesome until I hit the ground,” Nikolas said.
A serious crash might scare most off racing, but then the Thompsons aren’t exactly most people. The next day saw Nikolas again out on the track.
The Thompsons have a unique philosophy that carries them through times of adversity. “Look at his eyes, look at his face, look at the seriousness of what he’s doing and how passionate he is. You couldn’t tell him no,” Shanea said. “We truly believe that we only get our children for so many years, and if they choose to be the best at say...the clarinet, then we’ll give them all the tools they need to become the best clarinet player they could possibly be. It just so happens (...) he chose the adrenaline filled and expensive sport of racing.”
And there have been many times of adversity.
Last year doctors diagnosed Shanea with a life-threatening disease which kept her bed ridden for months. The diagnosis cast a shadow across the household. Yet even at their lowest the Thompsons never lost hope. Nikolas kept racing. Their family pulled together and traveled across the North West to compete, going so far as to buy a recreational vehicle so Shanea could come.
Because Shanea refused to be left behind. In the depths of her treatment, she followed her son from race to race, competition to competition, and urged him forward. Shanea’s stalwart resolve served as a beacon for Nikolas, and for her efforts he rewarded her with three medals: two second place and one third place.
Still, despite the small victories, that year wasn’t easy.
“We would be lying if we said there weren’t many times that we questioned what were doing. Why were we adding more pressure?” Michael said. “I think now we can say looking back that we’re so proud of ourselves. If we can do that under those situations, then there’s truly nothing we can’t do.”
Now Shanea is looking a lot better and Nikolas is moving on to pro. He’s one of less than 20 people under the age of 16 in the United States that have their Moto America Pro License. That license allows Nikolas to compete in professional level racing events. He’s planning on taking advantage it, too. Nikolas plans to attend races in Utah, Laguna Seca, and Pittsburg this year.
But for something that’s more close to home Nikolas will compete in a two-day event at the Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 31st to Sept. 1st.
“Since day one we’ve been the team. The things we face in just one weekend of racing are more challenges than most people get in a lifetime,” Michael said.