Lawless, Sparks take reigns of U.S. Paralympics cycling program

By Beth Bourgeois | June 10, 2013, 12 p.m. (ET)
U.S. Olympic Coach Andy Sparks, U.S. Olympians Sarah Hammer, Lauren Tomayo and Jennie Reed visit the USA House at the Royal College of Art on Aug. 8, 2012 in London, England.
U.S. Olympic Cycling Team Coach Andy Sparks, U.S. Olympians Sarah Hammer, Lauren Tomayo and Jennie Reed visit the USA House at the Royal College of Art on Aug. 8, 2012 in London, England. On June 10, it was announced that Sparks is the new head coach for U.S. Paralympics cycling.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Today, U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, announced the hiring of two new positions within its Paralympic cycling program; Ian Lawless was named the new high performance director and Andrew Sparks was announced as head coach. Both Lawless and Sparks are cycling experts and their additions are expected to make a profound impact on the program.

"The U.S. Paralympics cycling program is a strong one, but we feel that the addition of Ian and Andy is a true game-changer in the lead-up to Rio 2016," said Julie O'Neill, team leader, U.S. Paralympics sport performance. "We are thrilled to have them both joining our para-cycling team and know they will have a positive impact on our athletes and their performance on the field of play."

As cycling high performance director, Lawless will direct the annual and quadrennial planning for Paralympic road and track cycling athletes and provide overall leadership to the para-cycling program. He comes to U.S. Paralympics from U.S. Handcycling, where he served as executive director from 2009 to present, managing handcycling programs, events, teams, athletes and coaches.

"I am thrilled and honored to be joining the team at U.S. Paralympics," said Lawless. "I look forward to working with our athletes and coaches to continue Team USA's momentum from the London Paralympic Games."

Prior to joining U.S. Handcycling, Lawless was the special projects director at Challenge Alaska, 2007-2009. His responsibilities included helping to fund, develop and manage the Sadler's Alaska Challenge, the longest and toughest wheelchair and handcycle race in the world.

From 2002-07, Lawless worked in multiple capacities at Adaptive Adventures, including serving as the cycling director, managing a year-round recreational and competitive cycling program, and as Colorado regional director, where he developed the strategic plan and fundraising strategy for the sports program.

As a previous USA National Track Cycling athlete, resident athlete at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and a coach at the Olympic Games, Andy Sparks brings both a prestigious athletic background and more than ten years of professional coaching expertise to the team.

"I am excited to return to Colorado Springs and to join the USOC family," said Sparks. "My goal is to work tirelessly to promote and build a world-class training environment that can propel U.S. para-cycling to become the No. 1 program in the world in Rio 2016."

Most recently, Sparks served as the performance director and head coach of the Performance United Cycling Center in Mallorca, Spain. Prior to that, he directed the track cycling program at the UCI's World Cycling Center in Aigle, Switzerland, which was comprised of more than 100 athlete and coaches from the governing bodies of more than 40 nations.

Sparks also had great success coaching the Irish Olympic Track Cycling Team in London at the 2012 Olympic Games and the U.S. team in Beijing in 2008. Through his career, his winning philosophy and inventive methods have helped his athletes amass 20 World Championship medals, 11 World Championship titles, three Olympic medals, two world records, and 15 national records. His remarkable record of success has made him a two-time winner of the USA Cycling Coach of the Year award for his outstanding leadership and coaching excellence.

Both Sparks and Lawless will be based in Colorado Springs, and will begin their positions July 15 and June 19, respectively.