Bike Rides & Hikes

Parathlete Jamie Whitmore keeps her eye on a prize

If her eye is on the prize, champion paracyclist Jamie Whitmore will devote her all toward securing it.

That’s what the 38-year-old Sacramentan did to earn one of her latest achievements – an ESPY Award as the best female athlete with a disability.

“I don’t like to lose anything, so I went campaigning,” Whitmore said. “I’m very grateful for all the places that I’ve traveled to in the world because a bunch of those people started campaigning. It was mostly my friends who posted, shared and voted.”

Whitmore has dozens of career victories under her belt, according to TeamUSA.org. She is ranked No. 1 in both track and road cycling in her classification and has won six world titles in the past 12 months: two on the track and four on the road.

Despite that, being awarded the ESPY Award by ESPN in July came as a surprise to her.

“I was up against some great, great competition who have been in parasports much longer than me,” Whitmore said. “This is only my second full year, and they’ve been around for six years plus. It was just a great honor.”

Although she’s somewhat of a newcomer to the paralympic scene, Whitmore is a longtime champion athlete. She has 37 career victories with the XTERRA triathlon series, including United States, European and world championship titles and multiple wins in the professional mountain bike circuit.

Her professional athletic career was stunted in March 2008, when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. A spindle cell sarcoma wrapped around the sciatic nerve in Whitmore’s lower left leg. A condition known as drop foot led to her losing the use of her lower left leg and relearning how to walk. She was told she would never bike again.

Two years and three surgeries later, she was cancer-free and had given birth to twin boys, Ryder and Christian, now 4. Then after living cancer-free for three years, she proved her doctors wrong by hopping back on the bike in 2012.

“It was hard, but there was still freedom within it, and I didn’t care because it was that good kind of hurt, like ‘I’m back to riding,’ ” Whitmore said.

Two braces support her left leg, one with more flexibility for everyday activities and a stiffer one with appropriate support for cycling. One of the braces ends up broken often, so she applies for grants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation for help with the more than $800 cost to replace it.

“Jamie is still the same intense, competitive person, so in many ways it’s not really different, though there are alterations to be made,” said Neal Henderson, of Boulder, Colo., who competed in the early 2000s in XTERRA as Whitmore did. “In any case, you always work with what you have.”

Henderson, 41, who began coaching Whitmore before her disability, said her background as a “world champion and a world-class athlete has given her a leg up on her competition.”

“Just to see that transformation and the progression in the sport has been very fascinating,” he said of Whitmore as a para-athlete.

Whitmore said that rather than her fierce competitiveness, it’s always been her faith that has gotten her through it all, “knowing (God) guides me where he wants me to be, not where I want to be.”

She is in the midst of writing her autobiography, “Powered by God,” which borrows the name from a sticker on her bike that she displayed throughout her athletic career.

Her next athletic goal is the 2016 Paralympics. When she isn’t training, competing, writing her book or spending time with family, Whitmore can be found coaching her triathletes.

She tells them: “If I could start with practically one whole leg down, you can get off that couch and make that first step.

“It’s about doing it because you want to do it and not comparing ourselves to others. I am who I am, and I’m gonna do what I can.”

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