Wednesday Aug 17 2011
Rosa handcycles on
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Cool woman, paralyzed at 38, now competes nationally
What some of the world’s top professional cyclists power through with their legs, Thea Rosa accomplishes with just her arms. Rosa, 44 of Cool, has climbed Mt. Diablo, toured Utah and competed in Eppie’s Great Race, all on her specially designed handcycle. After her legs were paralyzed in a horse accident at 38, Rosa, a dually-truck driving mom of three, wasn’t willing to settle for a life without activity. “The first thing I said to my doctor was, ‘how do I get back on my horse,’” Rosa said. “I got back in the saddle four months after my accident. I didn’t want anybody else to tell me you can’t. I just wanted to get my normal life back.” Although she experienced times of intense grief, Rosa was determined to live her life full out, without being limited by her disability. As a former nurse, it came naturally to Rosa to reach out and help others find joy in the midst of their own tragedies. She began volunteering for the organization Wounded Warriors, with the hope that her story could inspire people in similar situations. “I always say the horse broke my back, but it didn’t break my spirit,” Rosa said. “At first I asked, ‘why me, I was always so safe on the trails and taught others to be safe’ but then I thought, ‘why not me? Why can I not be the one to make a difference?’ We have to stay active and healthy, not just waste away in a wheelchair.” The veterans she works with have been injured in the line of duty. She helps them find new ways of being active. Soldiers from Wounded Warriors even made Rosa a bracelet out of their bootlaces to show their appreciation. “They always say, ‘you are so in shape,’” Rosa said. “I tell them it takes hard work.” Two years ago, her quest to stay healthy led her to handcycling. Rosa said she enjoyed being able to go where her wheelchair couldn’t, and the challenge of doing what most people do with their legs, with her arms. “I never thought of myself as inspiring, but you never know what trials people are going through. Mine you can see, but maybe theirs, you can’t,” Rosa said. “It is amazing what (handcyclers) do. It’s like ‘look what we can do with our arms, the smallest bones in our bodies.” Rosa, who just got back from competing in the Tour of Utah, where she took fifth, said she is hoping to raise enough support to attend the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Victory Velo Bike Shop in Auburn has partnered with Rosa as a sponsor, and someone even donated a new bike to her. Dominic Cooke, a fellow handcycler, started a non-profit organization to raise money for disabled athletes called Try For Others. He also completed the Olympic Training Program himself. Cooke said Rosa is a force to be reckoned with in any race. “I met Thea a couple of years ago on the bike trail. She just has a lot of drive. Now that she has this new bike the sky is really the limit for her,” Cooke said. “She pushes herself to the limit.” Rosa said even though she still has tough moments accepting life as a paraplegic, she will continue to push her body to stay healthy. “There is so much life to be lived,” Rosa said. “I need to find different ways to do the things I used to.” Reach Sara Seyydin at email@example.com.