Photo by Madoline Markham.
0712 Jennifer Schuble cropped
Paralympic cyclist Jennifer Schuble rides her bicycle through Homewood from her Edgewood home to start her daily practice route.
Jennifer Schuble is the fastest woman in Alabama on a bicycle. The International Cycling Federation agrees, and that’s why the Homewood resident was one of only five women in the world awarded a personal invitation to compete in cycling events at the 2012 Paralympics in London this summer.
“This is by far the greatest honor of my life,” Schuble said. “This gives me the right to enter every race.”
Other cyclists who want to compete in the Paralympics must go through tryouts before earning a chance to compete.
The U.S. Cycling team is rated the number one team in the world, but other countries hope to unseat the Americans.
For the games, England has built a new velodrome, a fast indoor track that resembles a giant bowl with steep banks. It is supposed to be the fastest in the world, and Schuble can’t wait to get on it.
Schuble wasn’t like some kids who began preparing for the Olympics at a very early age, though she was involved with sports for most of her life.
She was born in Lake Charles, La., and grew up in Houston, where she played soccer, ran track and rode bicycles in high school. It wasn’t until much later when life threw her a curve that she took a turn down a path to the Paralympics.
Schuble actually wanted to become an astronaut and decided to attend West Point. She didn’t have a congressional nomination out of high school, so she had to attend the service academy prep program at Marion Military Institute in West Alabama to qualify for West Point.
But not long after she arrived at West Point, she sustained a traumatic injury to her brain during hand-to-hand combat training.
“I did a flip and hit my head against a log,” she remembered.
She spent the summer at Walter Reed Medical Hospital doing rehabilitation. After she returned to training, she sustained a second, career-ending head injury. There was a mysterious lesion on her brain they couldn’t identify, and she wound up with a medical discharge.
Several years later in 2004, she discovered that she had multiple sclerosis. Looking back, she realized the lesion on her brain was probably MS-related.
The medical discharge allowed her to go to college. She wanted to do something productive, so she took advantage of a Veterans vocational rehabilitation program. “Woe is me, I’m hurt,” was the last thing she wanted to say.
She chose Production Operations Research at the University of Alabama, where she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees.
After graduation, she went to work at Honda Manufacturing, and later to Mercedes in Vance, Ala., where she currently works. She gravitated to cycling to relieve the stress of her job.
Schuble competed in her first international Paralympic cycling competition in 2007 and quickly rose through the ranks, earning a gold and two silver medals at the 2008 Beijing games.
She has also won a trophy-case full of awards in state and regional cycling competitions as a professional.
These accolades don’t come easy. During the week, she rides her bike a few hours each day after work and lifts weights at Lakeshore Foundation in Homewood two days a week after her rides. Weekend workouts are even more strenuous.
Her trainer bike is equipped with a high-tech power meter that monitors all aspects of her sessions to ensure she gets maximum benefit from her workouts.
Schuble said that with work, training and a rigorous racing schedule, there’s not a lot of time left for other activities. “I guess people would think I lead a pretty boring life,” she said.
If it weren’t for her two English bulldogs, Panzer and Sherman, she would race every weekend. “My dogs help keep me grounded,” she said.
Schuble doesn’t dwell on her past misfortunes. “Even though I’ve had multiple brain injuries, and I’ve been diagnosed with MS, I can still compete. I get out there on the road, ride my bike and win races,” she said.
These days her focus is on the games in London: “If you’re not thinking London Gold, you’re not going to win it.”
Jennifer won a silver and a bronze at the London Paralympic Games. For more info go to: http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/athlete/schuble-jennifer-5511746/events/