Samantha Bosco freely admits she can get stuck deep in tunnel vision, to the point of losing perspective.
Her sharp focus was a clear asset at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, as she turned her first Paralympic experience into a double bronze-medal haul in cycling.
But then it was all over. And the unwavering daily dedication toward a singular goal seemed a little hazier. She needed to find the short-term purpose to drive herself, the new dreams to chase with abandon.
Bosco is now recalibrating her life, starting to look toward the Tokyo 2020 Games. In the meantime, she is happy to stay close to home, competing in the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Los Angeles from March 2-5. Bosco’s tentative competition schedule is the 500, 3,000 and C4/C5 scratch races, and possibly a sprint.
“It’s great to have it in my backyard, so the people that love and support me can see me race,” said Bosco, who moved to the Los Angeles area with her husband, Andrew, last year. “I think it is a smart move to have the para-track in LA, as it can help expose the sport to a lot more people. A lot don’t know what the Paralympics are, they still get them mixed up with the Special Olympics — and that’s two very different things.
“I want people to see just because we have some sort of physical condition, we race as hard, if not harder, than able-bodied competitors.”
Bosco, who took up elite competitive riding in 2012-13 and won Paralympic bronze medals in the C5 time trial and individual pursuit, still regards herself as a newcomer to the sport. She loves to ride in different modes, from track to road, and also in able-bodied races.
Learning how to navigate a new path after the Paralympics was not a physical challenge. She’s in shape for the world championships, but feels less steady about her mental and emotional preparation.
Bosco only took about two weeks off after Rio, but dialed back on her track riding. She rode for fun, rode in road races and tried to work out her feelings of letdown after Rio.
“I don’t feel too prepared for track worlds this year, because I just went through a strenuous year,” Bosco said. “I needed to let go a little bit, because Rio was over, but it was hard to do. I had a blues period after the Games. I didn’t expect to feel that way. I didn’t know it was normal. I felt like the kid at summer break who wants to go back to school.
“So I am working on that important balance every day. I need to get balance in my life, I’m setting goals in all parts of it, so I can make sure I am being mindful. My husband and parents are great at keeping me in balance, which is great.”
Her website, sammiecranks.com, is reflective of Bosco’s personality: funny, honest, powered by coffee, thoughtful and reflectively trying to make sense of an adventurous life.
Bosco is about two months from finishing her bachelor’s degree in communications, taking online classes through DeVry University. Finishing her degree is another big goal checked off her list, years in the making.
She sees her elite cycling career and education becoming the perfect vehicle to influence young female athletes.
“There is so much pressure to be perfect. I’ve been through the pressure as a girl,” said Bosco, who turned 30 on Feb. 19. “I work from home, doing some freelance graphic design, and I turned on the TV for some background noise. There was this TED Talk from some lady who does coding. She wanted to get more girls into coding.
“Her points struck me: Women are inherently nurtured to be perfectionists. They go to a store and see shirts that say ‘Pretty Girl’ or ‘Hello Gorgeous.’ The guys go to a store and they have shirts that say ‘Be strong’ or ‘Live outside of the box.’
Bosco continued, “I want to teach girls to take risks. Go for it. Change their mentality through sports. I think I can really do that in many ways, both in para- and able-bodied cycling. We need to show girls that they are empowered too, and I really want to take some leadership in that in cycling.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.