It’s how many medals she will bring home and how many records she will break, and she seems to be getting faster with age – the 47-year-old broke a track record at USA Cycling Masters Track Nationals, a record set the previous year by 24-year-old Missy Erickson.
Johnson, a former Olypmpic bobsledder, heptathlon rival to Jackie Joyner-Kersee and international weightlifting medalist, turned to track cycling four years ago and has since turned heads.
Last year, Johnson took her pink track bike to Manchester, England to compete in Masters worlds and broke the 500-meter record with a time of 36.415. At USA Cycling Elite Track Nationals the same year, she competed against the young guns and finished with a bronze medal.
In the last two weeks Johnson again took on the young cyclists at nationals and won silver, then gold at Masters, breaking the track record in the 500 meters with a time of 36.231, beating out Erickson’s record of 36.918.
[blockquote style=”style-2″]”Too many times we talk and think about what is not possible and what we cannot do. I want to find out what I can do.” – Gea Johnson [/blockquote]
Johnson’s Race Report:
Elite Track Nationals – Rock Hill, S.C.
500m – Silver Medal
“Medaling at Elites was big time. USA Cycling Elite Track Nationals bring all the elite women…all the women on the national team vying for spots on the Olympic team. These women have been cycling for years, train at velodromes and compete year-round. I’m 47 years old, still new to cycling, and train in the desert on the street. Yet, I still made it on that podium next to 23-year-olds! Winning the silver medal was such a huge accomplishment for me.
“The Elite Nationals race was my very first race of the year. As the week went on, and through the next week at Masters nationals, I just kept getting better and better…faster and faster, gaining confidence and experience, becoming more more comfortable on the velodrome.
“Although very beautiful, training in the Arizona desert on a street is a rather monumental handicap for me. Just having those 2.5 weeks to race and train at a velodrome made a massive difference in my cycling. I started at the Elite Nationals and by the time I finished at the Masters Nationals a few days ago, I had already become a different rider.”
Masters Track Nationals – Redmond, Wash.
- 500m – Gold medal
- Match Sprints – Gold medal
- Team Sprint – Gold medal
- Track Record in the 500m
“In addition to my championship events, I did a track record attempt in the 500m, and I smashed the record! This was a highlight for me personally. It was my best performance in cycling to date. I was so happy and overwhelmed with emotion.
“Missy Erickson held the record, and she is the No. 1 elite sprinter in the U.S! She set the record in 2013 at the Marymoor GranPrix, a UCI event held every year for the elite sprinters, so breaking this record was huge! Even though it was not an official event where I won a jersey and a gold medal, it was the most noteworthy performance by far.
“The conditions were not ideal at all; it was a very windy that day. Yet I truly believed I could do it if I just put some things together and execute what we’ve been working on. It was amazing…incredible. I was sincerely overwhelmed with joy and emotion, and the fact that I broke her record by almost six-tenths is definitely a statement. I’m just so thankful I was able to perform at my best that day.
“I still did not know what I was going to do the night before. My coach Lionel Space (who won two silvers and two bronze medals himself ) looked at me and said…”Well, you’re here at a velodrome…you have an opportunity to race. It just depends on how badly you want your name on the green sheet up there!” The green sheet had all the track records on it.
“His comments certainly made an impact on me. I thought wow… does he really think I can just go out there and do it…just like that?! Does he really think I can break Missy Erickson’s record? His confidence in my ability gave me that extra reassurance I needed to do the attempt. Of course my mom kept telling me to do it too. It’s indeed a little scary to go out there in front of everybody and do an official record attempt when everybody is watching.
“I’m just so very very grateful and excited, and hopefully this is just the beginning. I am 47 years old, and I’m proud of my age. I’m proud to be competing on an elite level, standing on the podium next to 20-year-olds. I do not want to set limits on myself – I just want to see what I can accomplish and find out what is possible. Too many times we talk and think about what is not possible and what we cannot do. I want to find out what I can do.”