Shawn Cheshire, a Warfighter Sports Ambassador, began losing her vision as a result of a head trauma suffered while working as an EMT in upstate New York. As her vision deteriorated she was introduced to adaptive sports by her VA therapist. In September, 2016 She competed against the best in the world in Rio.
ON HER FIRST ADAPTIVE SPORTS EXPERIENCE
After I lost my job because of my vision loss, I pretty much hid in my house for six months. My VA representative drug me to a running group pretty much against my will. I ran my first tethered 10 mile run in May of 2012 on a very hilly course. It was totally exhilarating.
This is my job. I train 6 days a week. Three days one on one with my trainer for muscle and strength training It is a challenge. Losing your vision is such a drastic life change. Cycling gives me a focus to get out of bed every day. It gives me a focus and a motivation.
ON STAYING MOTIVATED IN THE OFF-SEASON
During the long winters in Upstate New York it is easy to get unmotivated. There are only so many days you can ride your trainer bike. That’s why I took up Nordic skiing. It allowed me to get out and compete and use so many of the same muscles I use in cycling. It’s such a thrill to try out a new sport and have even more success and expand my horizons even further.
It revolves around trust and teamwork. I’m the little engine on the back and I have to trust my pilot. The ultimate goal is to really work as one even though we’re two people. You really want to work as a team. It’s either going to make or break your relationship. I really like MacKenzie both on and off the bike which is pretty important. It’s been an incredible match.
I made the U.S. Team in less than four months and made it to Rio and those are great, but for me it’s about making the decision every day to do this. About getting out of bed and not quitting. Giving it 110% even when I have my hard days and things are tough. Losing your vision is not the easiest thing in the world to adjust to. I don’t let it stop me in any way. In some ways, I live more now than I did when I had sight.
ON WHY SHE COMPETES
My ultimate goal was always to make the Rio team and race. Not just to race, but to compete against the best in the world. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it all the way.
ON REPRESENTING USA AGAIN
As a military athlete, I think being a part of Team USA is maybe more memorable. We all come at this having wanted to serve our country and having lost the ability to do so, which is why this experience is so valuable. It was so exciting to wear the team colors and have so many people cheering for us, both during the events but at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. There’s nothing like it.
You’ve got to love what you do, otherwise you’re going to quit when it gets hard. When I have my hard days and things are tough, it helps to remember that this is what I love.