Clara Brown celebrates after finishing a race.
Para-cyclist Clara Brown sees the postponement of the 2020 Paralympics as a blessing in disguise. As she approaches her first appearance on the world’s biggest stage, she appreciates the extra time to continue to train and improve.
“It’s been a really positive time mentally - I really have a chance to go into Tokyo knowing I’ve done everything I could fitness wise to be prepared,” Brown said.
Brown moved out of the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has since relocated to Montana. Although she admits that she misses the recovery tools and training environment of the Training Center, she has found solace training in the ‘Treasure State’. Including the discovery ofa small community of cyclists - both professional and amateur - whom she now trains with frequently.
Even with the postponement and the adjustments to her training schedule, Brown has some big goals for herself once competitions finally return.
“I’d like to set a world record on the pursuit. That’s my big goal going into Tokyo,” she explained.
Brown earned a silver medal at the 2020 Para-cycling World Championships in just her second year of competition.
“I’m certainly not disappointed in myself by any means, but that performance did give me a very clear goal of where I need to be.”
She explained that she works to focus mainly on time goals and her individual performance, because in a sport like Para-cycling she has no control over what her competitors are doing.
Brown experienced an incomplete spinal injury at the C5/C6 level at age 12, but made the return to competitive sport in high school. She served as a coxswain on her high school rowing team, which she continued into college as well.
“I loved motivating people and getting the boat together. It was an awesome role but at the same time I really wanted to be doing something physically myself,” Brown explained. “As a coxswain you sit there and it’s not necessarily the most physical role. I wasn’t actually rowing.”
It was in her first few years of college that Brown purchased her first modified road bike. She attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and explained that she really got to know and explore her college town on her bike.
“All through college I knew I had some lingering nerve damage, and I knew that it affected my riding. And I was always kind of wondering - is there a playing field that I could compete on that’s fair? Do other people have similar problems?”
It wasn’t until Brown got a job at a bike touring company that a friend recommended Para-cycling to her. Everything fell into place in the spring of 2018, and just two short months later Brown was competing at her first World Cup.
Since then, Brown has gained experience at two World Championships as well as the Parapan American Games, earning a medal at each competition. And now, her sights are set on Tokyo.