Little Cancellara I call him. He doesn’t quite have the stout build of the Swiss, but he is putting out half of Cancellara’s wattage by pedaling with only his left leg…… I’m sure you are asking why he is doing it with only one leg, so I’ll fill you in on the details. Steven had a stroke in late 2006 that left him paralyzed on his right side. His doctors didn’t even think he’d walk and talk again, much less ride a bike, race a bike, and win international medals. But Steven is a determined, hard working man. It’s that hard work that got him through the Naval Academy and that worked ethic was most likely bolstered by his 16 years of active service. By way of work, determination, and surely a bit of good fortune, Steven was walking and talking in 6 months and soon after that got his first post-injury bike, a recumbent trike. Over the next 2 and a half years on the recumbent trike, Steven got fitter and faster, and was was invited to ride on the Military Paralympic Team. He eventually moved on to an upright trike, and racing at national and international competitions. An upright trike is a basically a regular bike in the front (Steven’s is a Specialzed Roubaix), with a special kit on the back to give it two wheels rather than one. Steven flies around with his paralyzed arm tucked under his jersey when he’s racing, and the left hand on the bars, his left leg is putting out the big watts, while the right one is just along for the ride.
Steven’s talent and work ethic were noticed by the US Paralympic Cycling coaches. This and his win in the time trial at nationals meant that he would be going the 2010 World Championships where he managed to eek into the top 10. I had met Steven in 2009, and had seen him progress from the recumbent to the upright trike. When he was looking for a coach, I jumped at the chance to work with him… to help him improve on his international results, and to help him qualify for the London Olympics in 2012. Steven has shows steady improvement this year, medaling at multiple international events, and topping the year off by winning a gold medal in the time trial at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara. Steven has gone from traveling the world in service to his country, to traveling the world representing his country in sport, and being damn good at it too. Steven’s next major goal is to make the Olympic team and represent his country in London next summer. He’s got a real shot at it. He knows how to work hard… he does mentally and physically grueling indoor workouts with frequency, he does 3 and a half hour rides pedaling with only one leg, he has inured diversity in his life that makes suffering on the bike seem like child’s play.
To talk about Steven as an athlete without mentioning his injuries would be intellectually dishonest, but his injuries don’t define him as an athlete or as a person. His hard dedication, his hard work, and his love of the bike are, just like any other world class athlete, what truly define Steven as a cyclist. But Steven is more than just an athlete, he’s an ambassador for his country, and an ambassador for the sport. He’s a reminder to other injured soldiers (and civilians) that they can still live their lives in meaningful, productive and fun ways. He frequently gives back to the sport and the organizations that helped him get where he is now by volunteering to help with para-camps and programs for individuals that are in earlier stages of their rehab and are interested in sport. Steven is a great example for those that need to know that even though their lives may have changed forever, life still goes on, life is great, and you can go on to do great things.
A Quick Q & A with Steven:
Q: So what is your favorite pre-ride food?
Steven: I have a pretty simple pre-race meal. An English muffin (Thomas Cinnamon Raisin) covered with Cinnamon Raisin Swirl (Peanut Butter & Co.), a banana, and a Starbucks Vanilla Latte.
Q: You do a lot of indoor workouts, what is your favorite music to listen to while you are hammering.
Steven: I listen to everything. Especially Taylor Swift, Eminem, Sugarland, and Metallica to name a few. (I noticed that Steven got especially motivated when I played Metallica at my indoor classes! -Sean)
Q: What do you love most about cycling and riding your bike
Steven: It makes me feel a little more normal. Who knows, if I can win enough, people will say “he’s the guy who won the race/medal” and not “he’s the guy who had the stroke”. A guy can hope, can’t he?
Q: What bike are you currently riding?
Steven: I am currently riding a Specialized Roubaix with Dura Ace Di2 and a Trike kit.
Q: What is your favorite bike you’ve ever had?
Steven: My Specialized Roubaix with Dura Ace Di2 and a Trike kit.
Q: What is your most memorable race result?
Steven: Definitely the gold medal at the Pan Am Games. There is just something special about standing on the top of that podium and representing your country.
Q: What is your primary goal as a cyclist?
Steven: To make the 2012 Olympic team, go to London, and come home with some hardware.
This interview was conducted by Sean Burke who is the head coach for Crank Cycling.