Passion Fuels A Dream
By Samantha Bosco for iRT Wheels
It’s hard to contain my excitement as I prepare for my first ever Paralympic Games in September. You see, I had this dream when I was nine years old to be a professional mountain bike racer, traveling all over the world racing my bike. The feel of the wind in my hair, the strength and skill to get through hairpin turns and lose-dirt climbs, the endorphin rush of finishing a race. I had to have it; I couldn’t get enough. Less than two years later I thought I had lost that dream when a limb-lengthening surgery ended with me spending three years on crutches and, ultimately ending with, extreme muscle atrophy, a bone-on-bone ankle, low ankle flexion, low bone density, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain, scarring, and my legs are still differ in length by about an inch or so.
I didn’t let it stop me though. I lettered in high school for swimming and bowling. I took up rowing as well, which led to a full scholarship to University of Central Florida. I rowed in the A boat for two years until I developed knee pain because of the difference in my leg length. And even though I loved it all, something was missing. Turns out it was bikes. After moving to Tampa with my parents and brother, and through the use of Speedplay pedals and shims I was able to build up my right cleat to equal out my legs, I started riding again. And that passionate little girl inside me came alive. I began training consistently in the fall of 2010, racing in 2011 and finding paracycling in 2013.
Thanks to paracycling the passion would only grow. And now, after 10 medals, six different countries, and multiple national championships, I’m proud to say I am part of the paracycling team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro!
It wasn’t an easy road to get to this point, though. I’ve had a few setbacks, including being hit by a car in May 2015 and getting a concussion that would derail my training for the better part of two months. If it weren’t for my passion of bike racing — and, frankly, my husband being my biggest supporter and best training partner — I wouldn’t be in this position. I would run the gambit of emotions after finding out early in 2015 that the final spots on the team would be determined by a time trial selection race July 2nd, 2016. More than once I felt like throwing in the towel and hanging up my bike. It’s a hard sport: you lose more than you win, you train more than you race, you make more sacrifices than appearances at family functions, you make less money than you would with a more-stable job, you spend more on bikes and bike-related expenses than your rent. It would be a lie to say sometimes I haven’t thought about why I am doing this.
And then all of a sudden you’re at the biggest race of your life, and remember why. For me it was the Paralympic Cycling Trials in Huntersville, North Carolina last weekend (July 2nd). I never went to a race more prepared. I trained hard, worked with an amazing sports psychologist to be mentally focused, recovered smart, said no to things I wanted to say yes to like going to see my brother’s minor-league debut, and improved my weaknesses. I was ready. And yet, as my start time got closer, I grew nervous. I wanted to do so well, to make the team. I did my best to keep the nerves at bay, but it wasn’t until I got my countdown and exited the start house to begin my time trial that the nerves washed away. It was as if my body knew what to do; every pedal stroke was filled with power and my mind filled with targeted focus to get to the finish line as fast as I could possibly go. I crossed the line in 31:29.82, and completely spent. And then the nerves came back as I waited for all the other women to finish, hoping I had gone fast enough to punch my ticket to Rio.
Once racing was complete, I was pretty sure I had made the team. The official announcement was not going to be made until the next day, but those that made the team would be getting a phone call between 6:00 and 7:00. So I anxiously awaited. I had gone out to dinner with my husband Andrew and my parents, our meals had just come out when my phone rang. I walked up the stairs to go outside with my heart pounding in my ears. “You’ve been nominated to the 2016 Paralympic Games cycling team roster” was all I really remember hearing. I did it, I had made the team! I wanted to shout for joy then and there.
All the blood, sweat and tears. All the setbacks and times Andrew’s belief in me kept me going when I didn’t believe in myself. All the countless hours spent riding through soreness, fatigue, mental exhaustion. All the support and encouragement from sponsors, family and friends. All the missed family get-togethers and milestone moments. It had all been worth it.
The reason that has kept me going in the past, and keeps me going now? Passion. I love riding my bike. I always have. I love the opportunities it’s presented me and that I’ve gotten the chance to see new places and meet my husband. I love that feeling in my legs when I had a really hard race and have completely exhausted myself. I love the endorphin high after keeping it together in a 30-minute time trial, pushing myself past my limits. I love the person it’s helped mold: the strong and confident woman, determined and hard working. The woman that believes she can take on the world simply because she hasn’t let anything hold her down.
To follow Samantha’s Olympic journey on social media, she can be found at @SammieCranks (Instagram). If you would like to help her on her Road to Rio, contributions can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/boscotorio.
For more information on iRT Wheels products: www.irtwheels.com