— The massive hartebeest antelope that inhabit the plains of South Africa usually go out of their way to avoid human contact. But to the surprise and pain of one competitive mountain biker, at least one of the 300-pound-plus creatures apparently dreams of becoming a National Football League linebacker.
South African Evan van der Spuy was peddling through the bush lands of Kwazulu Natal in a biking competition Oct. 9 when a horse-sized hartebeest charged at him at an estimated 30 mph. Leaping into the air, the animal clotheslined the 17-year-old, plowing a hoof into his head and sending him splaying onto the ground before racing out of view out onto the plains.
The surreal attack was captured on video by a biking teammate trailing van der Spuy and became an Internet hit. It has become one of the quickest viral sensations in YouTube history, now approaching 10 million views just a week after it was first posted.
Appearing live on TODAY Monday via satellite from Johannesburg, van de Spuy said he can now laugh at becoming an unwitting viral smash, now likely forever known as “that guy that got hit by a deer on YouTube.” But that was only after learning he wasn’t seriously injured.
“The first time I watched it was (at the) hospital, after I received X-rays and I knew I was safe,” van der Spuy told Matt Lauer. “I actually had a bit of a laugh myself just out of (seeing) how enormous the animal was. (But) it was scary.”
Indeed, the antelope attack was anything but funny at the time. Van de Spuy has been mountain biking competitively since age 12, racing for the Team Jeep South Africa team along with racing partner Travis Walker. The pair were just a few kilometers into the race when the marauding buck enters the video picture from van der Spuy’s right side.
‘Dude, are you all right?’
As Walker yelled out “Watch the buck!” van der Spuy barely knew what hit him — and by the looks of the antelope’s sharp antlers, he can be thankful the beast first hit him from its shoulder rather than skewering him.
Walker bellowed: “Whoa, holy cow! Dude, are you all right?” as his teammate crumbled into a heap after impact. On camera, van der Spuy can be heard moaning before rising and checking out his helmet, which was broken but luckily absorbed the brunt of the buck’s attack.
Van der Spuy told Lauer most of what happened is a blank. “From the moment that buck hit, I don’t remember anything from then until the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” the cyclist said. “So between the buck hitting me and the ambulance, I don’t have any recollection of that.”
That the attack was captured for posterity and became one of the most-watched YouTube videos in history was a stroke of happenstance. Race organizers chose two riders at random to attach cameras to their bikes for promotional use, and one of them was Walker.
“It was just by pure chance,” Walker told Lauer, adding when he saw the collision, “I was in total shock.”
Van der Spuy escaped serious injury, though he did suffer a concussion and a fairly severe case of whiplash. Still, the cyclist said he plans on competing once again when he gets doctor’s clearance.
In his five years of competing, van der Spuy said he had never heard of any racer getting struck by any animal. Race organizer Max Cluer told Johannesburg’s Beeld newspaper it was indeed a freak accident.
“It was a case of wrong place, wrong time for Evan, and for the buck, obviously,” Cluer said. “’It was just totally unexpected.”