Back to skiing, Allison Jones starts Road to Sochi

By Caryn Maconi | Dec. 05, 2013, 2:15 p.m. (ET)
Allison Jones
Allison Jones is aiming for her fourth consecutive appearance at the Paralympic Winter Games.

Seasoned U.S. Paralympian Allison Jones still gets nervous before a big competition but her perspective on racing has changed over the years.

Jones, a right-leg amputee who was born without a femur, has been to six Paralympic Games in the sports of alpine skiing (2002, 2006 and 2010) and para-cycling (2004, 2008 and 2012). She is aiming for her seventh appearance at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in March.

With over 25 years of ski racing experience, Jones says she is able to relax more than she could early in her career and channel her adrenaline into her event rather than wasting it on pre-race jitters.    

“My biggest goal for this season is to have fun,” Jones said about her Road to Sochi. “I’ve been to enough Games to understand the need for focus and being competitive, being kind of stressed and on the edge for a long time. For the last couple years, I have been sitting back and relaxing and enjoying the ride, having already honed in on a lot of those skills that I've needed.”

That doesn't mean Jones is taking it easy though.

After all, her training never really stops.

“There’s no real off-season and no chance to really reset, especially during Paralympic years,” said Jones, a rare athlete who balances two sports. “But what cycling gives me from the endurance side allows me to train for skiing better. Being fit, being in shape has its merits for each sport.”

Jones capped a successful season of cycling with a world championship time trial victory in August. Since then, she has continued cycling as cross-training for skiing, but has changed her regimen to focus on more on skills that will transfer to the slopes.

“I still ride, but it’s different,” Jones said. “It’s not long miles. It’s short and intense to try to use muscles that will be used for skiing.”

As for mental training, Jones said the racing mentality in cycling and skiing can differ because of the length of each event, but that the grit and determination to stick it out is applicable in every competition.

“Skiing is for a minute and a half, two minutes max for a run, whereas cycling can go from 46 seconds for the shortest to an hour and a half for the longest event,” Jones said. “So it definitely takes a different style of focus and calmness for different events.”

The variety fuels her.

“I like that it’s not the same thing over and over again, but I can take my competitive nature and apply it year-round,” Jones said. “By the time I’m getting tired of one sport, I start the other one.”

Jones currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., and trains in the Colorado mountains throughout the winter. She has 20 days of on-snow training under her belt already, as well as a strong base of fitness carried over from the cycling season.

She and several other members of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team will head to their first race of the season, the Copper Mountain NorAm in Colorado, Dec. 7-12.

While the U.S. team that will compete at the Winter Games will not be named until early February, Jones is one of the United States’ top hopefuls in several alpine skiing disciplines. She is a three-time Paralympic medalist in skiing, including gold in slalom from the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.  She’s also earned a Paralympic medal of each color in cycling, including gold in the individual time trial and bronzes in the individual road race and individual pursuit at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

While Jones came home without hardware at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, she believes she is capable of medaling again in Sochi – if all goes as planned.

“I’m doing my best to be able to take everything I’ve learned from 25-plus years of experience and put it all together at the right minute, and the right time and place,” Jones said, “and have it be Russia.”

If the last season is any indication, Jones should have no problem ranking among the best for the 2013-14 season.

She won seven medals in the women’s standing classification on the 2012-13 International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit, finished the season ranked second overall in the world cup standings for slalom and third overall for speed.

She also earned two victories at the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championship in slalom and giant slalom.

Jones is a true competitor, but the satisfaction she gets from being a part of Team USA extends far beyond the medal count.

“I get to represent the country in a way that most people with physical disabilities can’t,” Jones said. “And I get to go out there and show what individuals with perseverance and stubbornness and motivation can actually do if they apply themselves – no matter what obstacles they see themselves facing.”