FREMONT, Ind. (WANE) – Tom Davis does not usually see himself as a motivational figure, but rather a guy who enjoys riding his handcycle.
For 10 years, the Fremont resident has competed across the world in handcycling competitions, finishing on top in marquee races like the Boston and Detroit Marathons.
Before his handcycling days, Davis served in the U.S. Army during the early 2000’s. In 2006, Davis was serving overseas in Iraq when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). The fallout resulted in severe injuries, including broken bones, a concussion and traumatic brain injury. After multiple surgeries to repair his body, doctors had to amputate Davis’ left leg above the knee.
Like many veterans, Davis struggled to reacclimate to a post-military life.
“That’s what a lot of veterans [deal with] when they get out – whether they get hurt or not – is they struggle with, ‘What’s my identity? What’s my purpose now?” he said.
As part of his recovery, Davis started handcycling. He went out for occasional rides after finishing his physical therapy program, but he did not consider cycling in a competitive setting. That bike sat in a shed for two years after moving back to Fremont. One day, Davis said he felt a calling to get back into handcycling.
“I was working out one day at the local Y, and I was praying, and I felt like God was telling me to get my bike out and start racing it,” Davis said.
Since that realization in 2011, Davis has climbed to become one of the best in the country in his field. Davis’s first major wins came in the Boston Marathon and Detroit Marathon in 2013. Three years later, Davis qualified for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Now, Davis is reaching for a spot on the podium in this summer’s Paralympics.
Since qualifying for the Paralympics on Sunday, Davis has received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, friends and family. He underscores that he could not have come this far without the support from his four children – Brenan, Elliana, Isaiah and Lyllian – and his wife, Jamie.
“She’s definitely the one that runs this ship and keeps everything together,” Davis said. “There’s no way I could do this without her.”
Many have reached out to Davis to tell him how much his story inspires them. Davis never imagined he would get this much recognition, let alone be considered a motivational figure for others. He hopes his story, along with the other athletes who compete this summer, inspires others who are trying to navigate through their own hardships.
“If I can do what I love to do and enjoy riding the bike so much and then have an impact on other people at the same time, it’s a huge blessing.”
Follow Tom Davis and his journey to the Paralympics on his website.