Para-Cyclist Samantha Bosco Is Nothing But Thankful, Reminiscing On The Journey To Tokyo
by Samantha Bosco
Samantha Bosco competing in the C5 individual pursuit at the Para-cycling World Championships on March 24, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro.
To my team,
It’s been a long journey to get to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 and it’s not one I’ve taken alone. This adventure wouldn’t be possible without the support from so many people throughout my life, and I am thankful to all of them – to all of you.
Even though I was born with a tibia bow above my right ankle, I never knew anything was wrong with me. And despite a shorter right leg after surgery to straighten the bow when I was four years old, I had a very active and happy childhood. I fell in love with cycling when I was six. We’d moved near Kincaid Park and, with only a few weeks in school left, my mom would drop me and my bike at school in the morning, and my dad would pick me up after school on his bike and we would ride along Cook Inlet and the Coastal Trail to get to our new house.
Cycling became a big part of our life and my dad started racing mountain bikes. When I was eight, he started riding the courses with me so I could compete as a junior rider, including one that scared me called Little Niagara. Mom would ride the courses and stop to take videos of me. The adult riders would encourage me and give me advice, like the time the moose was blocking the trail and we all clapped until he moved. In the winter, I rode my bike on a trainer, using one of the first software versions of the CompuTrainer. In the summer, I began to dream of becoming a professional cyclist.
In sixth grade, I had some hardware put in my leg and we started the lengthening process. Something happened and my foot dropped down like a ballerina. Mom found Dr. Stanitski and we flew to South Carolina to have surgery, where she took out hardware and gave me even more in an attempt to repair what she could and mitigate what she couldn’t. After she suffered an unfortunate accident while riding her horse, my mom found Dr. Herzenberg at Kernan Hospital in Maryland, who agreed to take over my care. My dad and I stayed with my grandma in New York so we could make the weekly trips to Maryland for surgeries and treatment. They all taught me to be strong and determined.
From the first surgery through the last, I was bedridden, unable to go to school, unable to live the active childhood I was accustomed to, let alone dream of. There were 26 places I had a screw or wire that looked like bicycle spokes sticking out of my leg; the hardware weighed 15 pounds, it was hard to hide, people would stare at me, and I had to use crutches for what seemed like an eternity.
When the hardware came off, I had a lot of scars and I had to learn how to walk again and work to strengthen my bones. That, coupled with the emotional side of being different and wanting to be able to wear the same shoes as other girls my age, was a lot for a kid to go through, and sometimes I’d cry and feel sorry for myself. My mom would tell me to go ahead and cry because it does suck this happened to me, but then I had to stop because it doesn’t really help anything. I had to learn to adapt and forge my future. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself because I did have two legs and I could see and I could hear, and I had a lot of good things about me that other people didn’t. And no matter how many scars I had, I’m still beautiful. My parents were always there to hug away the pain, celebrate my accomplishments and help me find myself again.
I started in the pool learning how to walk again, used a hip sled to build bone strength, and started using a Concept2 rower in the basement. I stayed off the bike because my parents were worried about me breaking my leg again, which I did when I decided to rollerblade on the wooden walkway in front of our house. I went on to letter in high school in swimming and bowling, but a rowing program my mom signed me up for got me excited to get up before the sun came up and be an athlete again.
Pittsford Crew was a great program with a lot of talent. It was there, and through racing across northeast and at the Head of the Charles, that I learned how to work with a team and be fierce. I went on to earn a rowing scholarship from the University of Central Florida, where I rowed until I got a knee injury and retired. About a year later, my dad did some research and figured out a way to use shims with my bike shoes and pedals to balance my shorter leg so I could ride without pain and rocking back and forth. I started racing shortly after that and fell in love with cycling again.
My mom and dad are the biggest heroes in my journey to my para-cycling career, the first of many that deserve my thanks. Mom and Dad, thank you for all your support, for pushing me to be better than I was the day before, for teaching me to never let my disability define or limit me, in rowing, in cycling and in life. Thank you to my brother, Jason, for showing me the benefits of discipline and living your passions, for sharing your kindness and rationality, for always having my back, and for giving me a reason to be a role model. You may be my baby brother, but I will always look up to you. Thank you to all my family and especially my Aunt Wendy, for always sticking up for me when I needed it and traveling across the country to watch me race bikes and braid my hair for my wedding.
Thank you, Tim, for allowing me to be a part of the TopView Sports family, and for expanding the Florida cycling community and my knowledge of racing. Thank you for telling me about paracycling. Thank you to my first-ever sponsor, Dr. Kerr, and the Vein & Vascular Institute of Tampa Bay, for believing in me and catapulting my cycling career after my dad and I tried to catch you and your son on the Suncoast Trial. Thank you to the cycling community and my friends in Florida for being so welcoming to me and showing me the ropes. Thank you to my friends on the para-cycling team and to those friends I have made because of the sport for making bike racing something to look forward to even more. And to the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team and Team USA for the opportunities and memories made.
I met my husband, Andrew, at a cycling race. I knew when I met him, he was someone I wanted in my life, I just didn’t realize how much he would change it. Thank you for always making me a priority, for making my dreams our dreams, and for bringing me into a family filled with love, race-day cheerleaders and support. And while Tokyo won’t be the same without you there cheering me on from the stands and giving me a celebratory high five like you did in Rio when I won my first Paralympic bronze medal, I will hear your voice encouraging me to dig harder all the way to the finish lines.
Thank you to my cycling community in California and my 100-mile club for embracing me into the folds, looking out for me on the group rides, sprinting for city limit signs, waking up early to make sure I had someone to ride with when Andrew couldn’t ride with me, chastising me for being on the wrong side of the peloton and doing more work than necessary because of the wind, and becoming extended family. We have been through a lot together, especially this past year when traveling and racing was not an option. We’ve even seen each other at our worst, completely cracked from heat and fatigue at 100 miles of a 105-mile ride, wanting nothing but slushies and to be home. You all helped me survive the chaos and kept me motivated through uncertainty and doubt.
To the new girlfriends 2020 brought me, thank you for embracing me and never asking me to be anything other than exactly what and who I am, for showing me compassion and being some of my biggest cheerleaders, and knowing it’s always a “yes” to ice cream.
Big thank you to Doc and Team Lally for your unwavering support and guidance since our chance meeting on the plane to California in 2016, where we talked of each other’s dogs and how we were involved with sport and the Olympics and Paralympics progressed to a long-lasting friendship. And to Paraic and Claudia of Cyclologic for changing my life on and off the bike in so many ways, most importantly for maximizing my potential on the bike and becoming family to Andrew and I.
Thanks to all the sponsors I have had and teams I have been on throughout my career thus far: KIND Snacks, Forze Tri socks, IRT race wheels, Catella Cycling apparel, Kore Physical Therapy, Covina Hills Sports Medicine, Florida Velo, West Coast Cycling, Skyflash, Schroder Iron and SC Velo. And to the new sponsors and additional team members 2020 brought me, thank you for seeing my potential and wanting to propel me to higher levels on and off the bike. Thank you, Shelley, for the daily encouragement and positivity; Crown Toyota for the reliable RAV4 to get me to training sessions, bike races, and the grocery store; Hunt Wheels for the incredibly smooth and fast training and race wheels; Dr. Lim and Skratch for the fuel necessary to compete at my best; ROTOR for the continued support and dependable bike components; and Simona for helping me dial in my nutritional needs to excel in and out of sport.
Thank you to my coach, Michael Creed, for going through heaven and hell with me over the past five years. Thank you for not letting me get away with thinking I couldn’t be good on the track or that I couldn’t race with the top dogs. Thank you for never losing faith in me, for never giving up on me, and for making me finally look forward to recovery days. I will never forget the words of encouragement when I doubted myself at some of my biggest races and even thought of not racing anymore, nor will I ever forget the moment you got my attention after the bronze medal round for the 3K individual pursuit at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 so that you could make sure I stopped for a moment and took in all of the emotions of winning my first Paralympic medal and see the packed velodrome cheering for me. And to Sara for helping me not only keep my head on straight over the past five years but learn and grow into the woman I am today.
I know there are people I am forgetting as I know the list of people who have helped me along the way is endless. To those I have not listed, please know I thank you all for your emotional and financial support, for your guidance and lessons taught, your love and support, and your belief in me. Nothing extraordinary can be accomplished alone. Thank you for riding on this journey with me.
With all the love in my heart to give,