Justin Widhalm // Para-cycling
Motto: “Adversity reveals character.”
When he was growing up a Midwest kid with limited resources, Justin Widhalm’s mom used to tell him “adversity builds character.” But after his experiences in life, war, physical rehab, and racing, Justin has decided the real story is “adversity reveals character,” displaying the strength people already have within themselves. Today, Justin is the current US National C4 Champion in the individual pursuit, team sprint, and the 1 km time trial and holds the American and Parapan American Games record in the 1 km time trial. He has represented the US on four Team USA World Championship Teams and has won six national championships. Justin also competes against able-bodied cyclists at the Elite and Cat 1 level.
Justin’s path to cycling dominance was neither simple nor smooth. During his second deployment to Iraq, Justin was hit by 12 IED explosions, resulting in TBI, and fell from a helicopter and broke his back. While rehabilitating from his injuries Justin fell into a deep depression associated with severe PTSD. With the introduction of cycling into his rehabilitation, Justin’s condition began to improve. He started on a hand cycle, which he was told would be as far as he would go. Justin set out to prove the experts wrong, working to improve his neuromuscular and balance problems.
Justin believes his upbringing and his military service and rehab taught him to appreciate his opportunities and do everything possible to take advantage of them, by outworking his opponents, or constantly asking what he can do to set himself up for the future. He proudly wears the USA team jersey as an athlete in residence at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO where he is preparing to represent the US at the 2020 Paralympic Games. “I was forced off the field of battle — I didn’t leave it the way I wanted to go out,” Widhalm says. “To be able to represent and have the USA on my chest again is an indescribable feeling of pride.”