PUTNEY, Vt. – At this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, longtime Putney resident 54-year-old Paralympic athlete Alicia Dana took home the bronze medal in the Cycling Road para-cycle event. It is Dana’s second Paralympic medal, having captured the silver medal five years ago in Rio in the same para-cycle event.
Dana was in position to win the gold at Tokyo, however, with under a lap to go and a 40-second lead the chain on her recumbent handcycle broke, which ultimately cost her the gold – a very unfortunate circumstance that cannot be explained or predicted.
“Yes, it was a huge disappointment, and something that happens occasionally when riding,” Dana said in a recent interview. “I have never had more than a flat tire [as a mechanical problem] in a high-level race before… it was very unfortunate.”
Alicia attended her first Paralympic at the London Games in 2012 and then went to the Rio Games in 2016. Her first experience was a challenge because she was brand new to the team and the sport. “I had been competing for barely a year at that point, though I had competed a decade prior – for two years – before having my daughter.
“I felt it almost a fluke that I was even there. I was intimidated by the competition, and over whelmed by the hype, the crowds, the media… this time around was better in that I have gotten much stronger, faster, and more confident as an athlete. I also feel more connected with my team.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, these Games were much different than the Rio Games, as the overall time spent in Tokyo was much shorter. “We were there just long enough to acclimate and quarantine, get the job done, and go home… it was much more contained and business orientated,” Dana shared.
Dana had become paralyzed from the waist down some 35 years ago, after falling from a tree at the Putney School. Her loyalty and roots run deep here, and the support she has received over the years has been paramount.
“I feel very lucky to be a part of a community that is so supportive. The West Hill Shop here in Putney has been a huge help, in particular. I couldn’t do any of this without their mechanical know-how and willingness to take on certain aspects of dealing with my handcycle, that fall outside the range of their usual cyclist clientele.
“It’s really satisfying to see that the Paralympic Movement has grown into the awareness of more and more people. Fifteen percent of the population has a physical disability, it’s about time that folks get to see, hear, and understand our unique perspectives and abilities.”
So, was the Tokyo Games Alicia’s last Paralympics experience?
“I will continue to train and race this coming season, but I’m not sure what I’ll do after that,” Dana concluded. “My daughter will graduate from the Putney School next year, so there will be some changes at home. But, I’m still competitive, and I’ve invested so much time, effort, and resources into this sport – it doesn’t make sense to stop now. Plus, I still really enjoy it!”