Sepang 2011, when Marquez almost lost his sight but came back a winner

Sepang 2011, when Marquez almost lost his sight but came back a winner

One incident compromised the Spaniard's career more than any other. In 2011, Marc crashed and suffered vertical diplopia. A difficult situation but one that didn’t stop him coming back even stronger

As the MotoGP season gets underway, we now know that Marc Marquez will sit out the first two championship rounds taking place in Qatar. The Honda rider, who injured his arm on 19 July 2020 in the Jerez GP, still needs time to recover. Having now missed an entire championship, people are wondering whether or not Marquez will be the same on his return. But the Spaniard has already overcome problems during his career, like the time he risked losing not only his racing career, but also his sight.

His first season in Moto2

It was 2011 and a then 18-year old Marc Marquez was competing in Moto2 with Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol, riding a Suter MMXI. Marc arrived in Moto2 with the previous year’s 125 title under his belt and was soon able to win his first race in the middle class, at the fourth round of Le Mans.

And this was the first of many of course, the Spaniard amassing seven wins and three second-place finishes that season. He was very close to winning the title in his debut Moto2 season. But then he had an accident.

The Sepang incident

During Friday morning’s free practice in Malaysia, it started to rain and caught several riders by surprise, Marc included. Four of them crashed and while Bradley Smith broke his left wrist, Marquez was less than lucid. He returned to the hotel and was told by doctors that he hadn’t broken any bones but had suffered a blow to the neck which had caused some nerve inflammation. He was having trouble with his eyes and so could not race. He also had to miss the final Valencia race, where Bradl won the title and Marc secured the runner up spot. The problems with his right eye did not improve and he continued to see double. The doctors mentioned vertical diplopia, the result of a periorbital edema caused by the crash.

What had initially seemed a minor injury then became much more serious. Unable to see properly, Marquez clearly couldn’t race. And although the accident occurred in October, the Spaniard continued to see double come December. In the end, on 16 January 2012, the Spaniard underwent surgery for a paralysis of the superior oblique muscle caused by trauma (the Sepang crash) to the cranial nerves.

From tears to triumph

This was Marquez’s first real setback: “It was the hardest injury I’d ever dealt with, because I didn’t know if I’d be able to ride again”, recalled Marc. A few years later , when recalling the incident during a press conference at the “Superprestigio” dirt track race, the Spaniard got upset, thinking back to the fact he was just 18 and that his career could have ended there.

Yet Marquez, though very young, found the strength to fight back and, against the odds and helped by the surgery, he attended the Moto2 tests in Jerez, and then lined up for the first race of the season in Qatar. And this marked the birth of the warrior that we now know so well.

He’ll come back stronger

In 2012 he won the Moto2 title having amassed nine race wins. The following year saw him debut in the reigning class, where he won the title in his rookie year, to the amazement of his new MotoGP colleagues. From there he clocked up record after record. He was champion again in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, before an accident on 19 July 2020 ruled him out of the entire season.

Marquez is still not 100% fit. His recovery continues but the doctors have suggested he sit out the first two races of the season. So we won’t see him on track at Losail this week or next. But we’re certain that Marc will be back and, seeing what he’s done in the past, he’ll be stronger than ever. His rivals are warned. When it comes to fighting, Marc is not one to hold back.

Translated by Heather Watson

MotoGP Qatar, Puig: “Marc Marquez? He's already gone fast!”

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