Team USA finishes with record medal count in cycling

By Nick Kiger | Dec. 29, 2012, 12 p.m. (ET)
Allison JonesOn Aug. 30, the first competition day of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Allison Jones won the bronze medal in the individual C1-3 pursuit, the first of 17 medals won by the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team. Jones' bronze marked the first overall medal for Team USA at the Games.

Highlighted by the London 2012 Paralympic Games, called the greatest Games ever by International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven, 2012 was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement in the United States and around the globe. Records were broken and legacies were made. From Dec. 20-31, will unveil the Top 12 moments of 2012 for U.S. Paralympics in chronological order. 

The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team ended its run at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in fitting fashion on Sept. 8, winning gold in the final event of the cycling program, the mixed H 1-4 team relay with a time of 30:07.

As a team the Americans collected 17 total cycling medals in London – 12 in road cycling and five in track cycling, it marked the most successful Games effort ever for the United States. The 12 medals on the road tied Team USA with Germany for the most medals by any country.

Ten different athletes combined for the record medal count.

The team of Marianna “Muffy” Davis (Sun Valley, Idaho), Matthew Updike (Denver, Colo.) and Oscar Sanchez (Whittier, Calif.) narrowly edged out Italy who finished the 18 KM race with a time of 30:50. Switzerland finished third, but not far behind, finishing in 30:58.

For Davis, the win capped a remarkable few days for the three-time Paralympian. Davis won two other road cycling gold medals (individual H 1-3 road race and H 1-2 time trial) earlier in the Games, making her the most decorated of the U.S. cyclists.

For Sanchez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, the team win gave him his second medal of the Games, but his first gold. He finished third in the individual H 4 time trial earlier in the week. For Updike, who was participating in his second Games, the win gave him his first ever Paralympic medal.

The U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team wasted little time winning its first medals of the Games on Aug. 30 as track cyclists Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Megan Fisher (Missoula, Mont.) both captured medals on the first day of competition.

To say Jones was excited about winning the first American medal at the Games is an understatement. Upon hearing the news that she was in fact the first American medal winner she let out an excited scream that startled most individuals around her.

“I am so excited,” said Jones, who won bronze in the individual C1-3 pursuit. “It was great to see my name on the board and to see my country’s flag being raised. It was also great to know that everyone here was cheering for all of us.”

Fisher, competing in her first Paralympic Games, kept Jones’ momentum going in the next event, the C4 pursuit where she won a silver medal after falling just short against Australia’s Susan Powel in the final.

Joe Berenyi won a gold medal in the individual C3 pursuit.

The success continued on Aug. 31 with Joe Berenyi (Aurora, Ill.). After a hiccup at the starting line due to a mechanical issue, Berenyi was issued a restart and proved his mental toughness by finish atop the podium with a time of 3:36.148 in the individual C3 pursuit. He set the world record earlier in the day during his qualification round.

Retired U.S. Army veteran Jennifer Schuble (Houston, Texas) won the silver medal in the women's individual C4-5 500m time trial on Sept. 1.

"I wanted the gold of course,” said Schuble, gold and two-time silver medalist from the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. “It's the best I've ever ridden, I'm happy."

On Sept. 2, the final day of track cycling at the Games, the American team of Berenyi, Sam Kavanagh (Coram, Mont.) and Schuble collected the U.S. team’s fifth medal of the track cycling competition, the first in a team event.

Competing in the mixed C1 to C5 team sprint event, the trio each did their part to secure the bronze medal win over the Czech Republic 52.749 to 54.128, respectively. The win was truly a team effort for the U.S. as each rider had a specific job to perform.

Starting off the race for the Americans was Schuble who knew she needed to set the tone early in the race and did just that with her explosive start.

“For me it was timing the gate, I had to make sure that I counted the clock down in my head and to make sure that I didn’t false start,” said Schuble. “I had to get out like a rock star because it was up to me to set the pace for my team and I nailed it.”

The next rider to take the reins for the U.S. was Kavanagh who was the only rider in the group still without a medal in these Games after falling short on Sept. 1 in the individual C4 pursuit; something that was still weighing heavy on his mind during the race.

“It’s unreal, I have been working pretty hard for this and it comes on the back on a difficult day for me yesterday in a personal event that I was favored in and looked good to medal in. So it was a pleasure to come out today and throw down a quality time,” said the relieved 32-year-old.

Racing in the final leg was Berenyi who was looking to put the event away which he executed flawlessly, taking off with an incredible burst and never looking back.

“I gave it all I had and I probably looked like I did because my bike was bouncing around so much! I knew I had one shot and I took it,” Berenyi said.

For Berenyi it was just about doing his job for the team and helping Kavanagh collect a bronze medal.

“Sam is a good friend and he has been trying for a long time. Sam has been working hard for six years and has put everything into it so I wanted to make sure he got that medal,” Berenyi said.

For all three riders, winning a medal in a team event holds a special place.

“This is the most successful we’ve been on the track,” Berenyi said after the final track race. “To be this far ahead without even getting into our strong events which are on the road is amazing.”

After U.S. athletes won five medals in track cycling, Team USA nearly matched that total within hours on the road, with four medals in the morning races of road cycling’s opening day Sept. 5, including gold medals from Fisher and Jones.

Berenyi won the silver medal in the men’s individual C3 time trial, completing his set of medals from the London 2012 Paralympic Games. In the women's individual C5 time trial, Kelly Crowley (San Francisco, Calif.) won bronze.

Davis won gold in the Individual H1-2 Time Trial to kick off the Sept. 5 afternoon races. Monica Bascio (Evergreen, Colo.) won silver in the Individual H3 Time Trial and Sanchez won bronze in the Individual H4 Time Trial.

The United States collected two more bronze medals in road cycling on Sept. 6. Jones  won a bronze in the women's individual C 1-3 road race, her third medal of the Games, and Crowley added a bronze in the women's individual C 4-5 road race, her second of the Games.

Davis and Bascio each collected their second road cycling medals of these Games after finishing first and second in Sept. 7’s individual H 1-3 road race from Brand’s Hatch. Davis finished with a time of 1:41.34 while Davis crossed the line at 1:42.07.

Jamie M. Blanchard and Emily Lewis contributed to this report.