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“Stuck In A Little Daydream”: Para-Cyclist Kate Brim Is A Two-Time World Champ

By Paul D. Bowker | Aug. 13, 2022, 4:32 p.m. (ET)

Katie Brim poses on the podium after winning the women's H2 time trial at the 2022 Para-Cycling World Road Championships on Aug. 11, 2022 in Quebec, Canada.

 

Kate Brim loves to climb the hills.

Four competitions in the last week prove it.

Brim made her international debut in a UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup last week in Quebec City, Quebec, and won both the events she entered.

Thursday, on the opening day of the 2022 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, she won a gold medal in the women’s time trial H2, cruising to the victory by nearly four minutes.

That winning streak continued Saturday morning, when Brim won another world title, this time in the road race H2.

“I’ve really become a strong climber,” Brim said after a training session Friday. “Thankfully, that definitely was what helped me (Thursday). I ended up having a little under a 4-minute gap from my competition.”

So, in her first four races since being named to the U.S. Paralympics Cycling National Team, she’s four-for-four. That’s a pretty good start for a 24-year-old handcyclist who just a few months ago didn’t have a coach and participated in road races with wheelchair classes near her western Michigan hometown of Lowell.

“Every race and every domestic race I’ve done in the Para-cycling world, I just feel like I’m stuck in a little daydream,” she said. “It all feels so surreal. Just seeing the growth that I’ve had over this past year has been extremely eye opening. It kind of just validated to me that what I set my mind to is the outcome I’ll get.”

Going into Saturday’s road race, Brim said she was still learning the nuances of that type of racing, where cyclists compete together. In the time trial each cyclist races on their own.

“I just want to be able to put out as good a performance as I can,” Brim said. “I’m still so new to grasping, like, how I need to place myself in the road race compared to my time trials. Right now, I’m hoping to be able to just keep my lap times to a really close and similar pace. Also, I’m hoping I can have a little bit better encounter when my competition is drafting on me.”

Those are the little tricks that this cyclist from just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, has discovered on the global stage. Much like a NASCAR race in which drafting is a key strategy, the same kind of thing happens in a cycling race. The drafting often leads to a dramatic sprint finish at the end of the race.

“They like to use you rather than a teamwork approach,” Brim said of the opposing racers. “When I did the road race last week, I had to slow my race down because I knew she wasn’t going to try to pass me in a way to continue along the course without me. It was more so, she wanted to do a sprint at the finish.”

And still, Brim is unbeaten in international races. Here’s one reason why: since qualifying for the U.S. world cup and world championship teams with a strong performance at the USA Cycling Para-cycling Road National Championships as the only H2 entrant, Brim has turned her training sessions into her daily classroom.

Brim worked with four-time Olympic cycling medalist Sarah Hammer-Kroening at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She established helpful relationships with a number of Para athletes, including cyclists Clara Brown and John Terrell.

“They both (Brown and Terrell) just gave me such good insight,” Brim said. “One, what it takes to be able to compete at this level and also just all the benefits that come with it. You create a little family when you join cycling teams.”

Brim’s history with those athletic families goes back to the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, where she rehabbed after her spinal cord was damaged following two surgeries for a herniated disc. She joined the facility’s wheelchair rugby and handcycling teams.

“Being that I have been able to, one, just be a part of society and have a full-time job … and go to school and also be able to be involved in adaptive sports has just been absolutely incredible,” she said. “Seeing these accomplishments, it’s given me such happiness to know that a better life is possible if you really put your mind to it.”

A graduate of Lowell High School, Brim is now taking college courses online at Southern New Hampshire University and works for Amazon as she considers a move to Colorado Springs for training. Her parents made the trip to Canada for the world cup and world championships.

The world is moving fast for Brim and now there may be a conversation about the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

“I’m taking everything a day at a time,” Brim said. “I’ve never been a person to set long-term goals just because I’m a firm believer of just kind of living in the moment and soaking in everything I can. I’m always going to work as hard as I can.

“The opportunities that come my way, I’m 100 percent open for.”

Paul D. Bowker

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
 

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Kate Brim