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Monica Bascio Balances Family Life and Career in Her Quest for Paralympic Gold in London

Monica Bascio on her way to victory in a hand cycling road race.Guest blog post by Bob Vogel

Monica Bascio will be representing the U.S. in handcycling time trial and road race events in the upcoming 2012 Paralympic Games in London that kicks off in six weeks. For Bascio, 42, handcycling in the Paralympics is the culmination of a 14-year journey of dedication and hard work. Bascio is a natural athlete and extremely competitive, however sports is just one aspect of her multi-faceted life—she is the proud mom of her 5-year-old son, Henry, dedicated wife with her husband, Ian, and an Occupational Therapist specializing in geriatrics.

Bascio became a T12 paraplegic in 1992 as a result of a skiing accident.  Following SCI rehab she pursued a degree in Occupational Therapy.  She got her first handcycle in 1997 as a way to stay fit and enjoy the outdoors with Ian, a former bike racer, and quickly developed a passion for the sport.

Bascio started handcycle racing in 1998 and was ranked the number one handcyclist in the world over the next five years, winning more that 30 handcycle races. In 2004 handcycling made its debut as a Paralympic sport in Athens, Greece, but unfortunately there was no women’s division–a huge disappointment for Bascio, who was arguably the top woman handcyclist at the time.

Undeterred, Bascio decided to try adaptive cross-country skiing (sit skiing). Once again her natural athletic ability, competitive nature and work ethic enabled her to quickly rise through the competitive ranks earning her a six-year run on the U.S. ski team where she represented the U.S. as a cross-country sit skier in the 2006 and 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

In the off-season Bascio continued handcycling as a form of cross-training.

Bascio took much of 2007 off from competing in order to embark on a new adventure. On July 8 of that year, she gave birth to her son Henry and she and Ian proudly adapted to the world of parenthood.  By early 2008 Bascio was ready to start competing and the family created a balance of parenting, work and training that would enable Bascio to get back into ski racing.

Around the same time, Bascio’s dream of Paralympic handcycling seemed like it would come to fruition when it was announced that women’s handcycling would become an event at the 1998 summer Paralympics in Beijing.  Unfortunately in March she broke her tibia and fibula transferring out of a team van while at cross country race in Norway. Although her leg healed in time for her to compete in the Paralympic trials, she didn’t have enough time to get back into racing form and didn’t make the team.

After competing in the 2010 winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Bascio considered retiring from competition, but a rule change added an H3 class to the Paralympics. This meant she would be racing against athletes with similar function rather than an open class. Bascio quickly set her sights on the London Paralympics with the family agreeing to take it “One race at a time.”

Motherhood, family life, work and training at an elite level requires amazing balance and dedication. “On a typical day I’m up at 6:00am to put in a solid 3-hour workout on my handcycle. On some days it is a 4-hour workout.  In the meantime, Ian makes breakfast for Henry and gets him ready for the day.”  She says.  “By around 10:00am, I’m home. Ian heads to the office and I take over watching Henry and maintaining the housework.  We take turns making dinners.  Ian and I chuckle because most of our dinner conversation revolves around my training.”  Ian watches Henry on the days Bascio is working as an OT.  “The key to making it all work is we support each other, communicate and work together to balance the challenges of work, raising Henry and training for the Paralympics.”

Bascio says that although the family enjoys the hectic schedule, it can be draining.  “Ian cracks up because although I hardly ever watch TV, I love watching ‘The Biggest Looser’ (a show about weight-loss ‘boot camp’). She says. “I look at the show and think, ‘If all I had to do was stay at a campus and have a coach and do workouts all day it would be like a vacation!’”

Bascio says the other challenge in balancing family life with competition is the travel schedule. “My last trip in June was pretty crazy.  I was racing at a World Cup race in Italy for two weeks, flew back to the States, was home for two weeks, then flew to Spain to race in a World Cup race.” She says.

“Then I flew to London for 36 hours to ride the race course, then flew straight to the Nationals in Augusta, GA, and of course the plane was delayed so I didn’t get in until about 9:00pm and met Ian and Henry and Henry hadn’t seen me in so long and wanted to go swimming at the pool at the hotel, and I still had to put my bike together—then had a race the next day.”

Bascio has been an avid ROHO user for the past 15 years.  “I love ROHOs” says Bascio. “When I was first injured 20 years ago, the equipment vendor I had in rehab had the ‘old school’ mentality that a ROHO cushion was for people with higher level injuries or people that already had problems with skin breakdown so they ordered a gel cushion. I didn’t like it because it was heavy and I didn’t want to take the time to massage the gel the way I was supposed to.  When it was time to order my next cushion I switched to a ROHO and I’ve been using them ever since.”

As an OT and an athlete, Bascio is aware of how quickly a pressure ulcer can happen. “I know wheelchair users that have had pressure ulcers and I’ve seen what they go through and the great length of time it takes to heal.  I’m not willing to take that risk.” she says. “When I broke my leg it cost me a spot on the Paralympics and a pressure ulcer can take much longer to heal.  I’m always sitting on a ROHO.  I use a ROHO QUADTRO SELECT LOW PROFILE on my chair and I sit on a LTV ROHO Seat Cushion in the car.  I keep an ADAPTOR Pad in my backpack for travel and use it in the tub or shower bench, or when I’m sitting on the side of a pool or sitting on the ground working on my bike.  And of course I sit on my QUADTRO SELECT on long plane flights.”

Ian and Henry, along with other members of Bascio’s family will be in London to cheer for Bascio.  “Henry gets to travel to a lot of competitions.  He has become a member of the handcycling community.  Everybody knows him and a lot of the other athletes have kids so he has friends to play with. He has his own frequent flyer card and is already on his 2nd passport.”

Says Bascio.  Proof of the saying, “The family that plays together, stays together.”race.

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Bob VogelBob Vogel, 51, is a freelance writer for the ROHO Community blog. He is a dedicated dad, adventure athlete and journalist. Bob is in his 26th year as a T10 complete para. For the past two decades he has written for New Mobility magazine and is now their Senior Correspondent. He often seeks insight and perspective from his 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, and Schatzie, his 9-year-old German Shepherd service dog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of Bob Vogel and do not necessarily reflect the views of The ROHO Group. You can contact Bob Vogel by email at online.relations@therohogroup.com.

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