Jonathan Copsey finds fulfillment representing Team USA

By Emily Schell | May 22, 2015, 10:50 p.m. (ET)

Jonathan Copsey
Jonathan Copsey, pictured at the 2013 national championships, will seek another national title as he competes this Memorial Day weekend in Chattanooga.

As Jonathan Copsey prepares to race in his fourth USA Cycling Paralympic Road Nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee this weekend, his eyes are on the prize. Although the Memorial Day weekend race is his first since a serious crash last October, Jonathon radiates cool confidence while discussing the year ahead.

“I need to reach my goals to get to Rio,” he stated candidly. “And I will do whatever it takes to succeed.”

While his current focus is undoubtedly the national championships, Memorial Day weekend represents something more for the 28-year-old, who admits, “I always had this guilt that I had to earn my way as an American.”

This fulfillment was initially acquired when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008.

“I just kind of walked into the recruiters office and said, ‘Hey! How do I sign up?’”

The urge landed the Carmel Valley, California native at Camp Pendleton in San Diego before a serious car accident plagued him with a traumatic brain injury. Short-term memory loss, chronic migraines and muscle discrepancies continue to impact Copsey in addition to issues with balance as a result of damage to his vestibular system.

Soon after the accident, Copsey transferred to the Wounded Warrior Battalion.

“They told me I couldn’t drive anymore, so I had to figure out some way to get around.” As soon as he was cleared to run, Copsey’s legs took him everywhere.

“It got to the point where I was running up to thirty miles a day just to get around. I didn’t want to wait for the bus or for other people, so I just went.”

Running quickly transformed into a passion, and within a year, Copsey was running ultra marathons of up to fifty miles.

It didn’t take long for others to take notice.

After months of convincing, Jim Penseyres - Ride2Recovery national ride director, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and member of the Ultracycling Hall of Fame – finally encouraged Copsey to try cycling.

“I was really hesitant at first,” said Copsey. “I definitely was not about shaving my legs or wearing spandex.”

But Copsey’s first ride had him completely hooked.

“There’s something therapeutic about being on a bike,” said Copsey. “All you hear is the wind in your ears and your own breathing. When you make it to the top of a mountain, it’s like, man… this is awesome,”

In his first year cycling, Copsey took part in the Race Across America as a part of a four man team that crossed the continent in 10 days. Copsey’s favorite part about the race was speeding down Colorado’s Wolf Creek Pass at 65 mph at night.

Mike Durner, U.S. Paralympics cycling assistant coach and a fellow veteran, saw Copsey’s potential on the horizon from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Mike got me to do a time trial,” Copsey stated with a smile.

Copsey finished second in the time trial and continued on to win at the USA Para-cycling Nationals, his first major race. Since 2011, Copsey has been living and training at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.

Four years later, he has once again found fulfillment representing his country as a para-cyclist.

“Becoming an athlete representing Team USA is the best possible way I can to represent my country,” said Copsey.

He attributes his training discipline to his time spent in the Marine Corps, and his determination to a strong sense of self-motivation. His recipe for success?

“First,” he said with a chuckle, “I gotta stay healthy. Then it all comes down to training as hard as I possibly can.”

Copsey most importantly emphasized the need to keep his love for cycling, stating, “I always try to chase happiness.”

Jonathan Copsey will compete at USA Cycling Paralympic Road Nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee May 23-24. Daily recaps will be available at USParalympics.org.