Oswego cyclist going for gold : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego cyclist going for gold|
|Berenyi one of eight men to represent USA in London Paralympic Games |
|by Christine Bolin Dascher|
Joe Berenyi is getting ready for what might turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The 43-year-old Oswego resident is one of 16 members on the United States Paralympic cycling team who will represent America at the Paralympic Games in London Aug. 29-Sept. 9.
This will be Berenyi's first time participating at the Games, as this is just his second year competing. Just four years ago, he started racing.
The married father of three will be participating in five events - the 3-kilometer individual pursuit, 1K time trial, team sprint, road race and time trial.
"I'm expected to do well in at least two events (the individual pursuit and time trial)," Berenyi said. "I hope to medal in those two. That's the goal."
This year's Paralympic Games are the biggest ever. There will be 4,200 athletes from 160 countries competing in 20 sports. In cycling alone, there are 225 total cyclists (155 men, 70 women) competing in 50 different medal events.
Berenyi would have never expected to be where he is today 18 years ago, when he lost his right arm, broke his leg and shattered a kneecap in an on-the-job accident.
About a year before the accident, Berenyi was just getting into competitive cycling. He was always athletic - the Aurora native played baseball and football Aurora Central Catholic. At Waubonsee Community College, he played baseball.
It took several years and a lot of hard work for Berenyi to get his competitive edge back, but once he did, people started to take notice.
"People started asking me, 'Why don't I try that?'" Berenyi said of potentially competing for a spot on the national Paralympic team. "I didn't know much about it."
In 2010, at the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Road National Championships in Oregon, Berenyi earned his first silver medal.
In 2011, he was the national champion in the individual pursuit at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championship in California. That same year, he qualified to be one of the 40 people on the national team.
For the past five months, Berenyi has been all over the map. In April, he was in Montreal for an international race. In June, he was in Colorado Springs for a training camp and in Spain for the World Cup, where he earned a gold medal.
When he arrived home from Spain, he said he washed his clothes and left the next morning for Nationals, which was held in Augusta, Ga. at the end of June.
It was there where he won another title and officially qualified to be one of 16 (eight men, eight women) on the squad headed for London.
After Augusta, Berenyi was off to Canada for another World Cup. It was there he earned the overall World Cup jersey for 2012, and two gold medals.
"It's a nice trophy," Berenyi said.
Berenyi left for Los Angeles in the middle of last week for another training camp. He will be home for 10 days before he departs for Wales on Aug. 19. From there, he and his family will be in London for the main event.
"Of course I'd like some down time, but I can wait for that," Berenyi said.
Berenyi is glad to have Jill, and their three daughters, 10-year-old Syd (who will turn 11 on Aug. 9), 8-year-old Gwen and 7-year-old Tatum with him for the games. He's been training and competing, so he hasn't had as much time as he would like to spend with them lately.
"I'm still a dad," Berenyi said. "Now that they have tickets, they are excited."
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm so glad the girls aren't too little to miss out on this," Jill Berenyi added. "He's been traveling like crazy, so it will be good to be in the same city. We are so thankful for the donations."
The Berenyis had to pay for many of the expenses out-of-pocket. To help raise funds for the trip, Mike Farrell and Mary Lee, co-owners of Prairie Path Cycles in Winfield, have been his chief sponsors.
"I'm his biggest fan," said Lee, who has known Joe for three years. "He's just so solid. He's just improved so much in the past three years. He's so humble and so strong. When he announced he made the team, the news went through our circle fast. We are all standing behind him."
Prairie Path Cycles' amateur cycling club, Athletes By Design, recently hosted a fundraiser for Berenyi and his family. Another fundraiser/send-off party is scheduled for Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at Elmer's Doghouse in Montgomery.
Whether he brings home the gold or not, Joe Berenyi is unsure about what will happen next. He said he will still train, but maybe take a couple weeks off. After that, the future is uncertain.
"Rio (the site of the 2016 Olympics) is in another four years, but that's a big commitment," Joe Berenyi said. "I plan on continuing, but we'll see."