Eight-Time Paralympian Allison Jones Is Back On Her Bike, And Aiming For Paris
by Bob Reinert
Bronze medalist Allison Jones celebrates with silver medalist Denise Schindler of Germany after the women's individual C1-3 road race during the Paralympic Games London 2012 on Sept. 6, 2012 in Longfield, England.
An extended business trip might not be where one would expect to rediscover a sport, but that’s what happened for Allison Jones.
In preparation for a charity ride last year, Jones took her bike from her home in Gladstone, Oregon, to just outside Indianapolis, where she was doing engineering work.
“I ended up going back to that same location for three out of four months,” Jones recalled. “So, I was there a long time and working a lot of hours. The only physical thing I could do, because all the gyms were closed down (due to the pandemic) … was I rode my bike.
“I fell back in love with riding my bike again. That little spark kind of happened again.”
Jones, an eight-time U.S. Paralympian who had earned eight medals in cycling and alpine skiing, had gotten off her road bike after the 2017 world championships, where she had won a gold medal in the road race and a bronze medal in the time trial. That had given her a total of 22 world championships medals on the road and track since her first appearance in 2009.
“It was one of my best years,” said Jones of 2017. “Came out super strong, and that’s kind of how I wanted to end it. I felt like I had retired on my own terms.”
The idea was to finally put that mechanical engineering degree from the University of Denver to good use to make more money than her racing and speaking engagements could provide. She secured a position in Portland.
“I absolutely love it,” Jones said. “It was the perfect transition job back into a full-time engineering position.”
Allison Jones poses for a photo at the Parapan American Games on Aug. 13, 2015 in Toronto.
Looking back, Jones said she had no regrets about retiring from competitive cycling.
“I needed to step out,” she said. “I totally discovered my engineering passion. (I explored) leadership a little bit more outside of sports, which has been fantastic, and also bringing in everything I’ve learned from sports into a whole other field.”
Jones did stay active as an athlete advisor with U.S. Paralympics Cycling.
“That was really awesome to be a part of,” said Jones, who applied her “wisdom of years and years of experience to make sure the athletes are taken care of, and they have their voice amongst the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.”
But the Indianapolis riding experience rekindled the competitive fire in Jones.
“I can’t not push myself,” Jones said. “I’m a competitor at heart.”
It wasn’t long before Jones, now 37, was comparing herself to where she was as a cyclist in her early 30s.
“I was like, you know what? I’m not far off,” Jones said. “Yes, I need a lot of work. But it wasn’t all gone. And so, I kind of talked myself into it.”
She approached her coach, Ben Sharp of Boulder, Colorado, and asked if he had an open slot to train her. He did.
“Knowing the (U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open) was on the horizon, that would be like the first kind of real test,” Jones said. “That was the goal.”
Allison Jones competes in a race during the Parapan American Games on Aug. 11, 2015 in Toronto.
She re-emerged as a competitive cyclist at the Open this past weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. Jones, who was born without her right femur and is missing that leg above the knee, was the only cyclist competing in the women’s C2 time trial and road race and won both events. In the time trial, where cyclists of different classifications can be ranked based on their time relative to the national team standard, Jones was fifth.
“It’s not the first time that I was the only C2 out there,” Jones said. “But, really, in the time trial it’s not about racing against my same-class athletes. It’s about racing against all of the women because it’s a time standard. So, at the end of the day, what really mattered was the clock and being able to put out a really good effort and then seeing how you stack up against all the best.
“For the road race, it is what it is. I pushed as much as I could and what I felt comfortable doing for riding a solo ride.”
Jones said she’s happy with her progress.
“It was a good weekend,” said Jones, adding on Monday that she was “surprisingly not sore. I’ll take it. In the like past, I’d say, six weeks, I’ve just seen huge jumps.”
Jones will tell you that she’s taking it a step at a time, but there is a long-term goal.
“There’s a giant party in 2024 in Paris,” Jones said of the next Paralympic Games. “That is the ultimate.”
Jones knows that she will have to achieve a balance between her professional career and cycling as she rides toward another Games. She’s ready to juggle the two.
“I know it’s an opportunity, and I’m blessed with gifts, and I’m going to keep riding the wave that I’ve known my whole life,” Jones said. “And I’m really looking forward to the next couple of adventures. I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me in order to get back up to the top podium. It’s not just a handout.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.