'Jersey' Jeanne takes home bronze

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon
  • Defense Media Activity
Under a nearly cloudless sky and with a slight chill in the air, retired Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate took off down the hill at the U.S. Air Force Academy chasing a medal during the women's cycling race at the 2011 Warrior Games here May 20.

Despite flipping her handcycle earlier in the week, "Jersey" Jeanne cranked a loaned handcycle for 20 miles the day before the race to get used to it. She not only learned the nuances of the orange racer, she shaved 6:30 off her 2010 Warrior Games time, earning her a bronze medal.

"The race was wicked sweet," she said in her trademark diction. "The race was different this year because I knew the course and read the hills better and used my gearing better."

In a change from the other races of the day, the women cyclers were grouped in one class containing handcycle, recumbent and upright cyclers. The racers began in a staggered start often referred to as a hunting race. Since handcycles use only the rider's arms to power the wheels, they started first.

Jersey said the most difficult part of the race was climbing the hills on the rolling, 10-kilometer course, but she had a mantra she kept repeating to herself.

"Going up the hill I didn't change gears," she said. "I just said to myself, 'I am an Air Force warrior goddess.'"

As an optometry technician in the Air Force, Jersey was injured during a training exercise in 1984 when the ambulance she was riding in crashed. Her back was broken and she lost much of the use of the right side of her body. The injuries cause her to feel near constant pain, but she doesn't let the pain slow her down.

Jersey said she is a proponent of acupuncture and sports as a replacement to narcotic painkillers. She prefers a kayak race or swimming to pills or shots. Like a self-proclaimed herald of positive thinking, she often talks to wounded and discharged veterans about the need to stay active.

"An injury or disability doesn't change who you are," she said. "If you were athletic before your injury then you'll be athletic after."