If you live in Putney, Vermont, it’s pretty likely you’ve seen this athlete on the go. Her name is Alicia Dana. The 52-year-old hand-cyclist competed in her third Paralympic Games.
Dana grew up playing sports, competing in cycling and cross country skiing at the national level as a teenager. At age 17, an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. That’s when she found handcycling, which sent her straight to the world stage.
From Putney to the Paralympic Games in London, Rio and, most recently, Tokyo, one Vermonter’s journey is a story of success, strength and perseverance.
“I fell out of a tree and broke my back and became paralyzed from the waste down, so I ended up not being able to ride my bike anymore,” said Dana.
But the three-time Paralympic medalist didn’t call it quits. In her late 20s, Alicia Dana discovered a new passion and before long found herself competing for Team USA in Paralympic cycling.
“I felt as if I could express myself again in the way that I knew myself before my accident. And it gave me an incredible sense of freedom,” said Dana.
Dana constantly trained, making it back to her old bike routes and trails.
“She’s always training. She rides every day for several hours at a time. And when she’s not training, she’s trying to get me to ride with her,” said her daughter Willa Dana.
Alicia’s daughter Willa was invited to a training site in Colorado Springs to see her mom compete.
“I had a lot of nerves, a lot of anxiety. I really built up this race in my mind,” said Dana.
In her time trial, she was leading by about 30 seconds until her chain snapped which put her at sixth place. But the cyclist came back in the mixed team relay and road race with a bronze finish.
“Unstoppable in her own way. I think the magic of the paralympics is that it’s populated by people who overcome adversity that is unimaginable to most of us,” said supporter Zachary Caldwell.
Caldwell is Dana’s long-time friend. He and his wife owns West Hill Bike Shop in Putney, where he will occasionally tune up Dana’s bike. She says she’s not sure yet if she will be in Paris for the 2024 Games, but she plans to compete for a few more years.
“I feel so grateful to be a part of my community in Putney. There are so many people who have helped me in so many ways. And my heart just goes out. I could never ever do this alone,” said Dana.