Cody Jung poses at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials - Cycling on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS — When Tom Davis was laying in a bed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, wondering where his life would take him after losing his leg in the Iraq War, an answer to that question found him.
“That was one thing they definitely pushed was getting us into sports, getting us out and not just sitting around,” said Davis, who lost a leg after the Humvee he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device, sending the vehicle two stories into the air before landing on its roof.
“When you serve, that’s what you are and that’s what you do, and then that gets taken away you. I know I struggled with that for a long time until, it was really until I started riding a handcycle and taking my life and passion and putting it into that now.”
That passion took Davis, a native of Fremont, Indiana, to the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, where he finished fourth in the road race and sixth in the road time trial.
Those performances bugged him, though, and he set out to do better.
He took an important step Saturday when he crushed the 17-kilometer time trial course at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Minneapolis. In the Para-cycling trials, where athletes compete in various classifications based on their level of impairment, the cyclists were compared based on their time in relation to the Tokyo qualifying standard.
A percentage of 100 meant the cyclist was equal to the standard, and anything below that meant they were below the standard — in other words, anything under 100 was good.
Competing in the MH4 class, Davis’ percentage of 90.65 was tops among men by nearly three points.
“You’ve got to give God all the glory on that one,” Davis said. “I’ve just been training as hard as I can for the last couple of years for this, to go to Tokyo, and just went out there and did everything we could.”
The only cyclist who rode the West River Parkway course at a lower percentage than Davis was Samantha Bosco, a two-time bronze medalist from Rio, who clocked in at 90.24 percent of the standard. Her flying finish came just moments after Rio teammate and fellow WC4 cyclist Shawn Morelli set the previous high mark at 92.36.
“We both raced this race wanting a spot on that team,” said Bosco, a native of Upland, California, “and I think it shows.”
Go, Go Will Groulx
As the second starter on the day, Paralympic veteran Will Groulx got to ride before the temperatures reached the 80s in Minneapolis. The four-time Paralympian took advantage of the opportunity.
Racing a scenic West River Parkway course that hugged the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis into the residential neighborhoods of south Minneapolis and back, Groulx got his handcycle up to an amazing 44 miles per hour while descending a steep hill under the Franklin Avenue bridge.
“Our handcyclists are really well prepared, they are really leading the charge on the technology side, aerodynamics and equipment, and Will showed that today,” said Director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling Ian Lawless. “I was actually in the car behind him, so that 44 miles an hour, I think he was the fastest on the section of the course of any rider all day.”
Groulx, who won three Paralympic medals in wheelchair rugby before switching to Para-cycling and taking home a gold and two silver medals in Rio, had the third best percentage to the Tokyo standard among men at 93.58.
“It’s my first race in like 18 months, so I kind of felt al to of nerves and butterflies, a lot of jitters,” said Groulx, of Portland, Oregon. “But once I got out there, it was like, alright, I’ve been here before, I’ve done this, so that kicks in and then, you know, it’s like riding a bike.”
Cody Jung Puts It All On The Table
Back in April, at the first major Para-cycling race since the pandemic, Cody Jung crossed the finish line and accepted his likely fate for the 2021 racing season.
“I was kind of like, Tokyo probably isn’t in the cards,” he said.
The 29-year-old from Poway, California, has since gone on to finish second at a world cup event in Belgium and win a silver medal at the world championships in Portugal, and on Saturday he came to Minneapolis to post a blazing time of 38:29.95 over 29.1 kilometers in the men’s MC4 classification.
His fate for Tokyo will be decided tonight, but Jung did his part.
“I had to set out this week without expectations (for making the Paralympic team)” he said, “but as far as my own performance, yeah I didn’t think I’d be able to do what I did today, so it’s really, really awesome.”
Jung went straight from Portugal to Minneapolis — “It was like 60 hours of travel for an hour and a half of total race time,” he said. Whether or not he gets the call tomorrow that he’s going to Tokyo, he said he’s excited to get home to get his wife and young daughter in California.
“I’m definitely going to take some time and just enjoy and celebrate what’s happened already, and then after that, we’ll see,” he said. “It’s either I keep training for Tokyo or I get a real job.”
Multi-sport star Oksana Masters had to withdraw from the time trials after hitting a curb and wrecking her bike. Officials said Masters was uninjured, but her bike was unable to ride. Already an eight-time Paralympic medalist, and two-time gold medalist, in rowing and Nordic skiing, Masters is seeking her first Para-cycling medals after taking fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial in Rio.