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On a summer day in August, 1994, Joe Berenyi fell 40 feet from the iron skeleton of a building he was working on. He doesn’t remember the fall, but was conscious as co-workers applied pressure to his right shoulder to stop the bleeding. Although his arm was losing blood, he felt incredible pain in his left knee—and that is what he remembers. As a result of the construction accident, Berenyi lost his right arm and left kneecap.
Berenyi began cycling in the early 90’s, competing in some amateur races, but stopped after he lost his arm in the construction accident. It would be 13 years before he would get on a bike again. When the day finally arrived, Berenyi didn’t think he would be able to keep up with his friends. After all, he was out of shape, overweight, and would be trying to ride with a bad leg. “When I look back on it, it was probably one of my hardest rides,” says Berenyi.
SPORT: Cycling – Track
BORN: November 12, 1968
HOMETOWN: Aurora, IL
HEIGHT: 5 ft 9 in
COLLEGE: Waubonsee Community College
OLYMPIC MEDALS: Three-time Paralympic medalist (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
OTHER TITLES/NOTABLE WINS: World Championship Medals: 6 (4 gold, 2 silver) – 2016 – gold (time trial, pursuit); 2015 – gold (time trial, pursuit), silver (scratch); 2014 – silver (pursuit)
Nearly 10 years after his return to cycling, Berenyi is now a Paralympic gold medalist in cycling, 4x world champion, Team USA Paralympic Male Athlete of the Year 2015, and ESPY Award nominee. Berenyi had only been competing for three years at the national level when he won three medals and set a world record at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“When I began riding again all I wanted to do was keep up,” says Berenyi. Now, he spends his summers riding on country roads in Oswego and working out in his basement in the winter. In order to train for peak performance, Berenyi works out with high-intensity, short-interval sessions.
Most cyclists’ main concern is pedaling hard and fast. For Berenyi, his greatest challenge is keeping his balance. In 2013, he broke his shoulder and dislocated his knee when he fell during the World Cup race.
This setback didn’t keep Berenyi down for long. In the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Berenyi won a silver medal in 3 km Pursuit. “I love to go fast and I love competing,” says Berenyi.