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In Our Own Words

Using the Bicycle to Ignite Passion and Inspire Others

By: Mandy Marquardt  June 16, 2020

USA Cycling's Mandy Marquardt, recently named to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Track Long Team, discusses how being on the National Team has provided her a stage for racing a bicycle, but also a platform to help others.

***This is one individual's experience and not meant to represent a broader population***

I have always found the bike to be my happy place. It has allowed me to shine as a professional athlete. It has given me the opportunity to represent my country and pursue my Olympic aspirations. As well, it has given me an outlet to eclipse expectations as a person living with type 1 diabetes. And it has ignited a passion for me to share this joy and inspire others to give it their best and pursue their dreams.

I began racing my bicycle in 2003 at the age of 10, when I lived in Plantation, Florida. The Brian Piccolo Velodrome was a short drive from our home, so that was a safe place to learn to ride. Less than a year later, my parents and I drove from Florida to Texas to my first U.S. Junior Women’s 10-12 Road National Championships, where I won two gold medals in criterium and time trial and taking a silver in the road race. I was traveling, competing and making new friends. I was having fun and this was the first big happy place for me and my bike.

In 2007, I moved back to Mannheim, Germany, where I had been born, to live with my father. I already spoke German and I continued to train and race in many track and road cycling events, so it was a smooth transition. A year later, when I was 16, I was undergoing routine V02 max testing and bloodwork when doctors found I had elevated blood sugar levels. I was in the hospital for two weeks, and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I remember a doctor told me that I would never be able to compete at a high level in my sport. I told myself that I was just going to take it one day at a time — stay healthy, continue my education. It was a challenging time in my life and I didn’t want to give up.

So, I moved back to Florida in 2010 to live with my mother to complete my senior year in high school, apply to colleges and dial in racing and living with diabetes. Things started to click.

After the move back to the U.S., I joined a team with other cyclists living with type 1 diabetes, called Team Type 1 at the time, which was a turning point for me. I am proud to continue to be a member of Team Novo Nordisk, a global all-diabetes professional cycling team, who inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes. I was back in my happy place.

I was able to complete my education in 2014 from The Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Lehigh Valley campus and focus on my track cycling career. I was winning U.S. National Championships again (18 so far) and was named to the UCI Track Cycling World Cup team for USA Cycling. In 2016, I was honored to be named to the 2016 Olympic Games Long Team for USA Cycling. The female sprint team, ultimately, did not qualify as a nation to represent the U.S. On June 11, USA Cycling announced their Olympic Long Teams for the Road, Track, and Mountain Bike disciplines for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. I am thrilled to be a member of the Long Team for Women’s Track, with the final selection to be determined in late spring of 2021.

Being part of the USA Cycling National Team has not only provided me a stage for

racing a bicycle, but also a platform to help others. I strive to be a role model for young girls to pursue dreams, as well as a role model for people with diabetes to inspire, educate and empower them to live life to the fullest. Being an elite athlete is a full-time job, and managing diabetes is 24/7, but I wouldn’t wish for it to be any other way. I’m still learning and improving, but I feel that I’m right where I’m supposed to be and enjoying the process.

It’s important to me to pursue my sport at the highest level with integrity and balance, while continuing to share positive messages. I am proud to be an ambassador for TrueSport (champions the positive life lessons learned through sport) and the Taylor Hooton Foundation (educating schools and universities nationwide about the dangers of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs). I am also proud to be part of the U.S. Anti-Doping Association’s Project Believe 2020.

COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, but my commitment to the sport and my values strongly continue. I was honored to be one of just 17 elite athletes — amongst Olympians, Paralympians, and myself an Olympic Hopeful — to volunteer for USADA’s Project Believe 2020. During this eight-week pilot program, blood and urine tests have been conducted in our homes while being observed remotely by USADA personnel using video conference technology. It was efficient and I was comfortable with the process. During this unusual time of quarantine practices related to the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it’s a good time to provide feedback for future use of the program.

I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania and train alongside Andrew Harris and Edge Cycling. During the pandemic I have not been able to train at my home track, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown. It’s been a challenge for sure, but my sights are still set on representing Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Not only would it be the pinnacle of my athletic career, but also a great platform to continue to inspire others.

About the Contributor:

Mandy Marquardt is an American Track Sprint Cyclist — Racing with Type 1 Diabetes for Team Novo Nordisk & Team USA. Marquardt is a 18x U.S. National Champion, 2x American Records, 2020 Olympic Hopeful.

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