BRATTLEBORO - When Alicia Dana competed in her first paracycling world championship in 2001, her sport, handcycling, had yet to be recognized as a Paralympic event. It wasn’t until the 2004 Athens Summer Games that handcycling became a Paralympic sport.
A Putney resident and single mother, Dana will have her chance at the prize this August, as she and the twelve others that make up the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team compete at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games, held in London, England.
Dana made the team last week after competing at the USA Cycling National Championship in Augusta, Georgia, where she completed the qualifying event, a 19.5 km time trial in 37 minutes and 20 seconds.
"It’s a relatively new sport," said Dana, about Paralympic handcycling. "I just got back into it last year, after a long time away."
Brought up in a family of bicycle enthusiasts, as a teenager Dana regularly competed in many local and national races, and on her high school’s bike team. All that changed for Dana in 1986, when she was involved in an accident that paralyzed her from the waist down.
Luckily, she wouldn’t have to wait long to get back in the saddle, as handcycles began showing up a few years after her accident. It was then that the rising Paralympian started pedaling again, this time with her hands, and a new sense of appreciation for the sport.
But there were still a few bumpy roads ahead.
Handcycle technology has progressed a great deal, according to Dana, who is being sponsored by West Hill Shop, in Putney. "It’s just like a regular bike - you brake and shift gears almost the same way."
Dana is leaving Wednesday for a World Cup race that takes place in Baie-Comeau, Canada. Then it’s off to begin team training in California. From there, Dana travels to London in late August to compete in the Games.
"I feel proud I was able to get from the bottom of the pile right back to the top, even though I’ve only been training for a year," said Dana. "I could not have done it without so many people and their encouragement. I’m fascinated by the fact that today anybody can ride a bike, no matter what their ability or disability may be. I feel fortunate that I’m able to hang out with all these amazing athletes. At home, I feel like I’m the only one, so it is really nice to meet others who like me, are still able to do what they love."
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.