Joe Berenyi first got into cycling years before he lost his right arm and severely injured his left knee in a construction accident in 1994. Recovery took many hospital stays, skin grafts, knee surgeries, and a good bit of time on a couch or in a wheelchair. Getting back on a bike took much longer. Berenyi started with a modified mountain bike that he could ride with one arm, and in 2009 he competed in his first outdoor cycling race. In his first races he competed with able-bodied cyclists, but after getting in touch with a coach who had experience with disabled athletes Berenyi got to ride at the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Road National Championship. After a few years of competition and training, he went on to win three medals and set a world record at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, then earned another medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
Away from cycling:
While he wasn’t able to propose to his now wife, Jill Berenyi, when he originally planned in 1994, they got married later and now have three daughters together. Cycling is a love and passion of Bereyni, but his priority is spending time travelling and enjoying life with his family.
In his own words:
“Someone once asked me which I’d rather have: Both of my arms or that gold medal? I couldn’t really answer it then and I can’t answer it now. Sure, I wish I was totally whole but cycling has given me this incredible life and I’m grateful for that.”
“I like so much about riding. I like that it’s at once a loner’s sport and an activity that offers so much comradery. And I like to jump in open races and know that no one will give me special treatment, that people still bump me and ride shoulder to shoulder and that no one is going to let me ride off the front.”
“There are things I literally can’t do. I can’t run and I can’t clap. But I can race a bike. So as long as I can line up with guys half my age and compete, I don’t see any reason to stop.”
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- Sport: Cycling
- Limb Difference:
- DOB: 11/12/68
- Residence: Aurora, IL
- College: Waubonsee Community College
- Previous Games: 2016
- Classification: MC3