U.S. Paralympics Cyc... Features Jason Macom’s 2020 W...

Jason Macom’s 2020 Was A Wild Ride, And It Didn't End Soon Enough

By Joanne C. Gerstner | Jan. 19, 2021, 7:29 p.m. (ET)

When the bizarre saga of 2020 finally closed, Para cyclist Jason Macom smiled in relief. He was quite ready to end a year that had huge highs, scary lows, a healthy dose of creative inspiration and too much time spent in quarantine.

He’s ready to move on in the new year, start racing again, get more chances at world cups and, yes, try to make his first U.S. Paralympic Team and compete in Tokyo.

“[The last] year has been crazy, just so much adversity, so much that I needed to get through,” said Marcom, who is in residence at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I don’t even know what to say about all of it — just that it happened. And I have learned that crazy things happen.”

It’s best to sort out Macom’s year into chapters: the good stuff, the cool stuff and the bad stuff.

The good ledger is long: he competed in his first track cycling world championships and took home silver medals in the scratch and omnium, while finishing fourth in the individual pursuit and seventh in the time trial. He was feeling strong as the event wrapped up last February, ready for the big road and track seasons to come.

Then everything shut down because of COVID-19. No velodrome time. Facilities for working out were closed. He went home to his native Little Rock, Arkansas, where his wife and young daughter live. Having unexpected time to be home was a blessing.

Until it wasn’t.

“I guess I wasn’t used to being in really hot and humid conditions like it is in Little Rock, and I just had a horrible situation — I overheated and got really dehydrated on a ride,” Macom, who turned 40 on Dec. 15, said. “It was scary.”

Macom recovered from the setback and spent a few more summer months at home.

He went back to the USOPTC in July, which meant a mandatory move-in quarantine. Athletes moving in must isolate for 7-10 days to ensure they do not have COVID.

Luckily for Macom, he can train solo, so he moved his bike into his room and kept his workouts going. He also was inspired to work on a new, more aerodynamically fluid prosthetic leg. He is well-versed in IT, so he ran models through various software and came up with a design to make real through his 3D printers.

“It’s really good. I can’t wait to use it in competition,” said Macom, who works as an IT professional for the USOPC. “It’s a real upgrade.”

Macom was settling into the training center, ready to get into a strong training plan at the end of September.

Then the super-bad stuff happened. He went for a long ride on a public trail, getting back into increasing his mileage. People were on the trail, enjoying the fall day like Macom. He saw a woman biking toward him, on the opposite side of the trail. No problem.

At the last second, before they passed each other, a young teen boy on a BMX bike popped out from behind her and unexpectedly veered hard into Macom’s path. The bike-on-bike collision was unavoidable … and violent.

Macom and the teen’s heads collided hard, and both were injured. Macom took the worst of the impact and was left with a concussion, a dislocated jaw and a big, hard knot on his clavicle.

“It was a totally freak accident. It happened so fast,” Macom said. “It was really bad, I actually thought I had broken my collarbone too. It was super painful in my jaw and head.”

He now needed to heal and take time away from training. Even now his jaw is somewhat sore in the joint where it popped out and back in. His concussion has resolved, but he is working through post-concussion syndromes like hearing high-pitched sounds (tinnitus).

In October, his recovery was interrupted by another problem. At first Macom noticed he felt kind of sniffly. Probably a sinus infection or allergies, he thought. Still, athletes at the USOPTC regularly fill out COVID health assessment questionnaires, so he noted that he had some minor symptoms — but really, Macom said he felt pretty normal.

His answers led to a coronavirus test. Two days later, he was shocked by the result: he had COVID-19. 

“I thought they were messing with me — do I really have COVID?” Macom said. “I started having some other things, like a sore throat, happen too. I know they were right.”

Macom went back into quarantine. Back to staying away from others and trying to keep some training going on the bike in his room. His illness stayed mild, and he said he does not feel any lingering aftereffects.

The good news to end 2020 is this: Macom is fine. He’s recovered from the health scares and is back to training at a high level. It’s been a lot to live through, but he acknowledges his luck and help in being able to look forward to success in 2021.

“I feel grateful, right now, to be where I am,” he said. “I feel really grateful to be at the training center, through all of this crazy stuff, and having the awesome care from the sports medicine staff.

“They helped me get back to my bike.”

Joanne C. Gerstner

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She is a freelance contributor to USParaCycling.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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