After earning a pair of silver medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Monica Bascio wasn’t quite sure how her 2013 would unfold.
Bascio had goals, of course, and they were lofty.
The 44-year-old handcycling standout — who earned silvers in the individual time trial and road race in London — wanted to be the best on the world cup circuit and in the world championships this year.
But an extended winter in Colorado, where she lives, cut back on some training and early-season races, and she wasn’t quite sure where she stood.
“And you don’t want to be unsure,” said Bascio, a three-time Paralympian in cycling (2012) and Nordic skiing (2006, 2010). “If anything, my experience has taught me that confidence can get you lots of places, and I like to feel that. I know what that feels like, so I’d say I wasn’t sure in May. But after going into the world cups, it certainly proved that I was ready to handle it, (I was) on top and in great shape, actually the [best] shape of my life.”
Bascio won two gold medals at her first world cup event of the year in Spain in June, in the time trial and road race in her H3 category, then equaled that performance at her next world cup in Italy, giving her a huge dose of confidence heading into the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.
At those world championships in late August at Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Bascio again swept the two events.
In the women’s H3 road race, Bascio finished nearly three minutes ahead of Russian Svetlana Moshkovich. Bascio also bested Moshkovich to win the individual time trial.By the end of the season, she was not only a double world champion, but she finished as the No. 1-ranked H3 road para-cyclist in the UCI’s rankings, winning nine times in nine races in 2013, eight of them in world championship or world cup events.
For these achievements, Bascio has been selected as the United States Olympic Committee’s 2012-13 Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year, an honor she said was not only surprising but “humbling and flattering.”
Bascio will be honored Oct. 29 in New York. Other athlete winners this year are: alpine skier Ted Ligety (Olympic SportsMan of the Year), track athlete Raymond Martin (Paralympic SportsMan of the Year), Katie Ledecky (Olympic SportsWoman of the Year), doubles tennis champions Bob and Mike Bryan (Olympic Team of the Year) and the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter track & field team of Richard Browne, Blake Leeper, Jerome Singleton and Jarryd Wallace (Paralympic Team of the Year).
“It’s quite an honor, certainly, to be selected,” Bascio said, noting there were so many deserving athletes. “And very validating for all the work that you do to be recognized."
But for Bascio, the honor represents something more, too. It’s a celebration of a long, varied Paralympic career.
Bascio, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1992 skiing accident, has been a standout in handcycling and cross-country skiing. She went to the Paralympic Winter Games in Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 as a skier, finishing as high as fifth (in the 10-kilometer race at Torino). She then switched her focus to cycling and went to the London Games in 2012. She’s won national championships in both sports and, into her 40s, she’s shown that she not only can compete with younger athletes, she can beat them.
With so much under her belt — growing with the Paralympic Movement and winning medals at London last year and the world championships this year — Bascio, who lives in Evergreen, Colo., with her husband and young son, is thrilled to be honored as Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year.
“The fact I can still hang after all I’ve done … it’s certainly so meaningful to accomplish that and to be recognized,” said Bascio, who also works as an occupational therapist. “It’s not just this year for me, this award, it’s really an accumulation of all my years of commitment to Paralympic sport.”
Bascio said one of the keys to her success has been to keep her attention on the near future, taking one year, one event and one moment at a time and not fretting about the long-term future.
“I’m a dog,” she said, laughing. “I live in the moment. I don’t think about the past and I don’t think that far in the future.”
So, she’s not putting together a long-range plan to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games.
“One race at a time,” she said. “Yeah, I enjoy that. I do find more enjoyment in that than getting so involved in the big picture of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to make it to the world cup and the next Paralympics.’ If I can narrow it down and break it down and do my best one race at a time, that seems to work for me.”
So, with the cycling season past, she’s now thinking only of her next event: a return to cross-country skiing at the IPC World Cup at Canmore in Alberta, in early December. After that — if all goes well — there is the U.S. Adaptive Nordic National Championships in January in Utah. That’s as far ahead as she wants to think.
“I’m going to jump back into a little winter (sports) and see how I do,” she said.
Whether she decides to go all in with skiing again is still to be determined. But once she decides her path, she’ll give it 100 percent of her effort, just as she always has.
“I do believe strongly that I don’t want to be mediocre at both,” she said. “I want to put all my effort into one sport and be the best I can be.”
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 TeamUSA.org and USParalympics.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.