Allison Jones, a seven-time U.S. Paralympian in alpine skiing and cycling, is now a full-time cyclist.
Allison Jones hasn’t yet felt compelled to seek out new ski gear or unpack her winter clothes.
The seven-time, two-sport Paralympian has retired from competitive skiing to focus totally on cycling, and she’s very happy with her decision.
She’s had a little bit more time for her family, some trips and work around her house in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this year.
The only ever-so-slight pang that she might be missing something came recently when she saw photos of her former teammates on the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team in Austria.
“They had a 4½-foot snow dump and I kind of wish I was out skiing that,” said Jones.
But other than the fresh powder and friendships, she doesn’t miss much else — the practice sessions, the travel and being away from home.
Instead of trying to go back and forth from cycling to skiing this winter, she says her only concern is, “How many layers do I have to wear to get on the bike today?”
Jones, 30, is preparing for the U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships Nov. 1-2 at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, California, where she’ll compete in the 500-meter sprint and 3,000-meter pursuit.
Earlier this year, after Jones returned home from the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where she won a bronze medal in downhill standing skiing, she quickly switched gears to cycling. She went to the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Mexico and won a silver medal in the 500-meter time trial and a bronze medal in pursuit.
After that, she stepped away from both sports for a while.
“I took some well-needed time off since I kind of rushed from Sochi straight into the cycling scene,” she said.
Now, re-energized and back hard at work, she’s eager to see where she is at nationals.
Jones views the championships as a launching point toward the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As a track cyclist, she’s competed at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games.
She’ll see how she does in her events, establish what weaknesses she needs to work on over the next few months and then re-evaluate in February at her next competition, a qualifier for the 2015 worlds.
She feels very good about her ability right now in the 500-meter, which she says is the event she’s most focused on and the one that has the most potential for her to medal in if she qualifies for the U.S. team in Rio.
The nationals will establish a base line for her push toward a fourth Paralympic Games in cycling (and an eighth overall).
“This is kind of the beginning,” she said. “I kind of say this is where I start my training for Rio.”
In three trips to the summer Games, Jones — who was born without a right femur and had the leg amputated above the knee — has won four medals: a gold in the individual time trial and bronze medals in the individual road race and individual track pursuit in London; and a silver in the individual time trial in Beijing.
She also has four medals in alpine skiing: her downhill bronze from Sochi this year, a gold in the slalom at Torino in 2006 and two silvers in 2002 at Salt Lake City in the super-G and giant slalom.
This winter will present some training challenges for Jones because of the weather, but nothing she hasn’t handled before. She’ll do a lot of outdoor training on a bike that can handle adverse weather, get some work in on a trainer indoors and get velodrome time when she can.
One thing she’s embracing is the chance to be a one-sport athlete.
“It’s definitely going to be easier to structure around,” she said. “I took some time off between Vancouver and London, but I still had to maintain my status, so even one year I had to go ski for three weeks competitively.
“It was a good breakup in the cycling training, but I wasn’t able to just take time off. Now I can actually take some time off and work on the house or go mountain biking, things like that. I don’t have to just fit it in on a weekend. Like, ‘Hey, let’s go do this for a week because I’ll have that time.’”
Working around the house, in fact, gives her a good mental break. With a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Denver, she has a mind that likes challenges. So, she gets fully engaged trying to solve home-improvement projects.
“Those are great distractions for me,” she said.
She’s indicated in the past that the 2016 Games would be her last, but she’s not closing the door on future opportunities, saying Rio is her last “planned” Games.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity that rises for 2020. … But I’m not going to ski anymore, so I know it’s not going to be the 2018 Games in South Korea. But Tokyo — if it happens, it happens.”
Then again, she might walk away after 2016. She’d continue to do all the outdoor sports she loves just for fun and hope to land an engineering job.
She definitely won’t add another sport to cycling.
“Nothing competitive,” she said, laughing. “If I do anything, it’s going to be all for the fun of it.”
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 since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.