On June 19th I experienced part of the Paralympic Cycling time trials in Minneapolis, MN. which were being held at the same time were swimming and track events. Fortunately, the cycling trials were held a few miles from my home on the road I usually ride my road bike.
I was able to attend the trials for a brief time and met a young woman who had Paralympic logos on her clothing and was taking notes along the path of the bikers.
Being inquisitive, I struck up a conversation with the young lady who was tracking all the cyclists and yelling encouragement as they passed by. She had a list of their names and start times.
This young lady was very willing to speak with me and answer my questions. I asked about the different bikes and the reason for the differences. She explained that those who rode the hand propelled bikes, which were extremely low to the ground, were the bikers who could not use the lower part of their body. Tricycle bikes were for those who had balance issues. The tandem bikes for those who were visually impaired. Finally, those on the traditional road bikes with two wheels were individuals who have other physical impairments or prosthetics but were able to use the bikes.
These athletes’ range in age from teenagers to 40-years old. Some of the cyclists who had competed in swimming or track in the past wanted to compete in cycling. This young lady described the passion these athletes had: their commitment and desire to excel and overcome the challenges or obstacles they faced daily. For example, some may have a prosthesis and it will rub against their skin causing irritation and pain, but the athletes will not let this impede reaching their goal.
I was thinking how easy it is for me to find an excuse because I'm not comfortable and need to wait for the discomfort to pass. How many opportunities have we lost because we gave in to temporary pain, being uncomfortable and didn't pursue our heart's desire? We focus on the obstacle and not the prize.
As I watched cyclists pass, they looked at this young lady and appeared to want her recognition; she encouraged them by name as they sped by. One cyclist, on a road bike, came streaming by with a motorcycle right behind filming him. She mentioned this person just came from the world competition where he medaled and would be going to the Olympics. I asked about how fast she thought this person was going? She said, " between 31 to 33 mph." I used to race a little and not with elite bikers. For me to get to that speed I would need to be going down hill. That is incredibly fast. I may be wrong, but I believe this cyclist may have had a prothesis for his lower leg. Anyway, he had what most would say is a limitation. What is mine? What is yours?
Fears, rejection and obstacles did not stop them.
I was not able to speak with any of these amazing athletes. What I took away from our conversation was that they each have an amazing heart of a champion. Fears, rejection and obstacles did not stop them. You could not come away from this event without being in awe. The daily challenges they face and the passion, the "heart" to overcome any obstacle to succeed was so inspiring.
Before I end this writing, I need to tell you who this young lady is and about her accomplishments. (You'll know why these cyclists were looking towards her as they rode by.)
I asked her if she ever raced. She said she did race but has retired from racing. I asked what racing she did. She humbly responded that she had been in three Olympics and received four silver medals. I'm sure my jaw dropped. She gave me her name and I sort of recognized it and apologized for not knowing who she was. She retired from competition in 2017 and then joined the Paralympics program and is now the coach for the cycling team. She does not coach individuals but oversees the entire program. She described falling in love with working with these athletes.
What a blessed and humbling experience I had with getting to know a little more about the hearts of these champions and a better understanding of Paralympic cyclists. And to learn all of this from one of the world's elite cyclists.
The young lady's name is Sarah Hammer. She was in three Olympics and won four silver medals with 8 world championships. She has been called "America's most decorated track athlete." Please look her up. Her accomplishments in cycling are amazing.
I really do not know if these Paralympic athletes are believers in Christ, but they hold such faith in their abilities. They don't let fear of life circumstances prevent them from pursuing their dreams or ambitions. When I ride my bike on the same road these athletes used, I can picture them as well as their determination and it helps me as I try to challenge myself just to improve my physical condition to make me healthier. We all need inspiration. What will inspire you to make the changes you need to make in your life? What small courageous steps do you need to take that could make a one percent improvement? I can tell you this, writing a blog like this is not in my comfort zone or a skill set of mine, but I pray that with the blessing of God, a life can be changed by Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
What small courageous steps do you need to take that could make a one percent improvement?
Above is a picture of Sarah and myself.
Please reach out to me to find out how I may assist you.
My email is, firstname.lastname@example.org.