For retirement, Allison Jones goes for another Games
Allison Jones, who recently retired from skiing, won a bronze medal in the women's downhill standing event, Team USA's first medal of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
On Day 1 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Allison Jones won a bronze medal in track cycling.
Allison Jones has had a very busy March and April, so when she finally was able to spend a few days at her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., she posted an ad on Craigslist with a picture of her skis lined up in her garage.
“Former member of the US Paralympic Alpine Ski Team recently retired at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia,” she wrote. “All skis for sale and all skis are in good to amazing condition.”
Jones also linked to her ad on Twitter and Facebook, but as of yet the skis are still in her garage. No takers yet.
“No, I haven’t,” she said with a laugh. “But I’ve got friends in other places that will help me sell those skis for sure.”
For now, at least, Jones won’t be sliding down any slopes, as the longtime two-sport Paralympic standout, who turns 30 in mid-May, has retired from competitive skiing. But she’ll continue to train with the goal of making the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a cyclist.
She’s loved both sports and excelled at each, going to four Winter Games and three summer, but it was time to become a one-sport athlete, she said. The constant travel and training, especially in recent years, kept her away from loved ones and friends at home, plus as the sports grew, being a two-sport athlete became more difficult.
“When I was younger it was fine, but now that I’m a bit older and I’ve got family and animals and a house and things of that nature, it became more difficult trying to balance everything,” Jones said.
“The sports are also growing, so their seasons are bleeding into each other.”
With ski races and camps in summer and track cycling events in winter, keeping up with both became a balancing act.
As she approached the recent Winter Games in Sochi, she knew they would be her last. Now she has no regrets about retiring from skiing. In many ways she said doing two sports for so long had helped fuel her career and keep her fresh.
“They both have their pros and cons,” said Jones, who was born without her right femur, leading to the amputation of her right leg above the knee. “By the time I started getting frustrated with one, I was switching over to the other.”
Jones had contemplated retiring from skiing after the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but was convinced to stay on by teammates and friends. Now, she’s glad she did.
Jones — who won a gold in the slalom at Torino in 2006 and a pair of silver medals at Salt Lake City in 2002 (super-G and giant slalom) — won a bronze in Sochi in the women’s downhill standing. It was Team USA’s first medal of the Sochi Games, and it came as somewhat of a surprise.
“That was unexpected,” she said. “I’m usually not a downhiller. And to be able to have a run put together like that was pretty awesome.”
She also just missed medals in the super-G, super combined and giant slalom, finishing fourth in all three.
For her final Winter Games, it was a great farewell.
“I took it all in, all the positives that I could, and ran with it and left nothing out there and had a lot of fun,” she said.
After Sochi, she quickly switched gears, traveling to Aguascalientes, Mexico, for the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, where she won a bronze medal in C2 women’s pursuit and a silver medal in the 500-meter time trial.
Now she’ll devote herself solely to cycling over the next two years with hopes of making the U.S. team in Rio, which would be her eighth consecutive Games.
“That’s the goal right now, is 2016,” she said, “with that most likely being my last summer Games, and finishing up my sporting career.”
While she’s enjoying a bit of down time now, the next weeks and months will soon turn busy, with an event in late May in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the U.S. Para-cycling Road National Championships in Wisconsin in July and the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships at the end of August in South Carolina.
Jones won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games in the individual time trial, then at the 2012 London Games she won a gold medal in the individual road time trial and bronze medals in the individual road race and individual track pursuit.
If things work out, she’d compete in two road and two track events in Rio, but she has no specific goals of adding to her career medal collection.
“As always, no expectations,” she said. “Just go out, do my best.”
As she thinks back on her long, two-sport summer and winter career, Jones said one moment stands out: her gold medal in the slalom at Torino. It was, she said, the only time she can recall that she was truly “in the moment.”
“I remember starting and I remember finishing and I don’t remember anything in between,” she said. “I got to the bottom and I said, ‘You know what? If I freakin’ DQ’d because I missed a gate, I wouldn’t be shocked, because I don’t remember going through the course.’ Which is what a lot of athletes call being in the moment. Like you just do it on autopilot.
“I didn’t force anything, I didn’t make any harsh moves; I was just there.”
Even later, when she’s gone back to watch the race on video, it’s as if she’s watching somebody else.
“Usually you can come back and get some of those memories back,” she said. “But I still haven’t been able to find any of those.”
At least she has the video — and the medal — to prove it happened.
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for USParalympics.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.