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WomanOf the Month 7-08: Monica Bascio
by Susan Klann, photos by Bridget Dvorak

Monica Bascio, a Paralympic athlete who competes in cycling, cross country skiing and biathlon, has celebrated many triumphs in her life as an athlete--among the most memorable, winning the 2002 world time trials in handcycling and winning a silver medal at the 2004 World Championships in Orford, Canada, in skiing.

A bitter disappointment came in February 2008 when she broke her leg while transferring into the van the evening before her first cross country race at the World Cup in Norway. She had trained long and hard to be ready for the Cup after having her first child in July 2007. But after recovering from the injury she tried out recently for the handcycling team for the Beijing Paralympics. This would have been a difficult goal for her to reach so soon after her injury, and she did not qualitiy. “The sport has become more and more competitive, which is a good thing,apostrophe she says. “And having had the broken leg this winter, I hadn’t had the preparation I needed.apostrophe Next in her sights is Vancouver in 2010.

Monica is the top U.S. woman in Nordic skiing in 2005 and 2006, and placing fifth at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, in the 10-kilometer long-distance cross-country ski race.

Monica is also one of only two 5-time winners of the Sadler’s Ultra Challenge—the longest and toughest wheelchair and handcycle race in the world. The event covers 267 miles from to Anchorage to Alaska, and is widely regarded as “The Tour de France of Wheelchair Sports.apostrophe

One of her biggest inspirations was winning the silver medal. “It was a great confidence booster and very motivating,apostrophe she says. Another thrilling moment came when many members of her family—she is the youngest of a family of eight children--traveled to to support her efforts in the Paralympics in that year. “I think they had a better time than I did,apostrophe she laughs.

Bascio’s current goal is to compete at the 2010 Paralympics in in cross country skiing. She estimates she trains about 10 hours a week, from dry land training to mountain board training during the winter months. While becoming a mom has complicated her regimen and, as all mothers would attest, led to fatigue, she has been innovative in carving out time for training and figuring out ways to include her son in her workouts. Family members help out when she must attend training camps.

Financing is always a challenge for the athletes and while those who qualify are given funding for travel, meals and accommodations, they must fund their own equipment. There is a pool of funding for athletes through the U.S. Disabled Team that offers support. New innovations in the equipment, especially handcycling equipment, have increased efficiency and speed but it is still costly.

In considering the tremendous effort and commitment it takes to be an athlete at her level, Bascio stresses that the aspect of competition is not the most important part of the equation for her. “It’s important to be healthy,apostrophe she says. “I’m not doing it for the competition, I’m doing it as a way to also enjoy the beautiful state we live in, to stay moving, because it’s my passion, I enjoy being outside, I want to sh