Guest Column: An inside look into my journey to the 2016 Paralympics

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Courtesy of Erin Scala

“If your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.”

I might not have my sight, but my vision is as clear as could be. “Will you look back on life and say, ‘I wish I had,’ or ‘I’m glad I did’?” said Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker and author.

It is very hard to set a goal that is three years away, but I have wanted to be a Paralympian since I was a little girl and I am going to do everything in my power to make it happen. I am going to set smaller long-term goals that will all lead up to my ultimate goal of Racing for Team U.S.A in Rio in 2016.

On the way to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, many different thoughts were running through my mind. I was mostly feeling excitement, but the unknown started to fill my head as I got closer and closer. Will I be able to find the bathroom? Will I make friends? What will we be doing? Will I be good enough? What type of food do they serve? Where do I sleep? The list goes on forever.

When I arrived, I was sitting in the cafeteria with my dad, talking to others in the program. The girl who was going to be my roommate introduced herself. Her name was Sarah, and she was also my pilot. A pilot is the person on the front of a tandem bike. The person on the back of the bike, which is me, is called a stoker. Sarah and I clicked immediately. Others in our group kept asking how long we knew each other, remarking that it seemed like we knew each other for years, and not just for a couple of hours. I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate, pilot, and now great friend. Sarah had never been on a tandem bike before, but she is a pro cyclist, so she learned quickly how to navigate a bike that is totally different than the one she is used to racing. We established our means of communication and rode as if we had been riding together since we were teenagers. She alerted me when we were going left or right, stopping, slowing down, when we needed to apply more pressure to the pedals or speed up, and other things that we needed to communicate while biking.

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