Disabled Cyclist Claims Medals, Fame 

Born with cerebral palsy, Nicholson was an active child, playing basketball, baseball and football. Shortly after his 13th birthday, however, he was in a serious car accident and suffered traumatic brain injury "that set me back a few years," he says.

A Richmond native, Nicholson began competing locally in beginners' races at age 21. His speech is sometimes hard to understand, but his calves bulge with muscle. One is tattooed with a lion-faced sun, from his days as drummer for punk band The Disease, which once opened for GWAR.

In September 2004, Nicholson heads to the Summer Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. These are elite sports events for athletes from six different disability groups. (The word "Paralympic" means "with Olympic." It has nothing to do with paraplegia).

The Home Depot has offered enormous support, he says, with a companywide policy of paying Olympic and Paralympic athletes full-time pay for part-time positions. Thus Nicholson can support himself while training for about 30 hours per week, twice a day.

Serious competition for disabled athletes is finally coming into its own, says Nicholson, who likens the struggle to that of women athletes 20 years ago. American Paralympic athletes are beginning to receive the same money and treatment as Olympic athletes. Yet, he says, he doesn't see himself as a spokesman for the cause: "I'm much more of just a bike racer." — M.S.S.



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