Allison Jones scores silver in Beijing
The U.S. Disabled Ski Team’s Allison Jones has an effective off-season training regimen.
It’s called winning a silver medal in cycling in the summer Paralympics.
Not too shabby for the 24-year-old Jones who was born without the bottom half of her right leg. She had been competing at the elite level in both sports with her one good leg for years now. In skiing, she won two silver medals at the Paralympics in Salt Lake and one in Turin, Italy. The silver in Beijing is her first in the Summer Games.
"I think this year has been my best in cycling," Jones said.
Jones graduated from the University of Denver in May 2007 and said this was the first year she could fully concentrate on both sports.
Jones competes on a regular road bike but only uses one leg to pedal. Getting that kind of power from just one leg seems amazing to most two-legged riders, but for Jones it’s all she’s ever known.
"It’s just what I’m used to," she said, casually.
In fact, she generally trains with able-bodied cyclists and just takes hills at her own pace.
"It’s not a question of strength ," she explains, "Just one pedal to push. If I went up hills at their rate, I’d kill myself."
All of her training paid off at the Paralympics. Jones went into the Beijing race ranked third, so she was expecting to do well. The race, a 24-km time trial on the streets of the city, was one of the best Jones ever completed, she said. The race had a staggered start, with racers going out onto the course a minute apart. Halfway through the race, Jones expected the woman behind her to pass, but it never happened. Once Jones realized that she was on course for one of her best races ever, she started to gun it and sailed to the finish. all accounts, it looked like Jones had won the race, but the judging system that adds or deducts time based on disability level put Jones in second behind American teammate Barbara Buchan. There was a moment of frustration for Jones because the Paralympic judging system is different than the one used in World Cup cycling and Jones would have won using World Cup standards, but she was still pleased with her win.
"I knew I had won the race. It was my best result ever," Jones said. "I still got to stand on the podium and listen to my national anthem and at least it was my teammate."
Jones really does use one sport to train for the other because she is using many of the same muscles in both skiing and cycling.
"The sports go hand-in hand, so I’m not losing any specific muscles," Jones said. "It’s nice because in training I’m never starting from square one."
Jones said that not only does her training cross over for the two sports, but the support does as well. When she was riding in the Paralympic race on Sept 12, her fellow U.S. Ski Team members were intently watching her compete. They were all in Colorado Springs, Colo. for a training camp and watched her race as a team and then immediately posted notes on her Facebook page to congratulate her after the win.
"They are a great group," she said. "Most of them I grew up with. They are my family."
Jones has been competing in skiing since the age 8 and skiing since age 16. She was member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team while she was student at the University of Denver and sort of an honorary member of the ski team there. She never competed on the team formally but foreran many races and competed in pre-season races to get ready for the World Cup season.
"She was athletically deserving," said former University of Denver racer Lindsay McClure. "It’s not because she was disabled. It was an honor to have her there and she was inspiring to everyone else."
In fact, she probably could have competed with the Denver team in some of the events, but instead chose to keep her pro status so she could continue to accept sponsors and endorsements.
"They treated me as part of the team, so I couldn’t ask for anything different," Jones said.
Now, after having just two weeks off, Jones is starting her ski training. It’s a rigorous schedule, but Jones is excited to be starting things off in such great shape.
"It put me in a good position heading into the ski season," Jones said. "I’m near my peak."
The Paralympic win has also put Jones in a different head space where she’s more focused on excellence than results.
"I just want to have a great season," Jones said. "I’ve always put result goals down. This year, I want to know I did everything I could to do my best."
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