Could you even imagine yourself riding your bike through 2,274 miles of mountainous terrain after surviving cancer? That’s the story of Lance Armstrong.
Born on Sept. 17, 1971, in Plano, Texas, he was raised by his mother, Linda. He started biking at a very young age and at age 13 won the Iron Kids Triathlon. By age 16, he was considered a professional triathlete. Instead of public school, Lance took private classes while training with the U.S. Development team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In 1989, Armstrong qualified for the junior world championships that were held in Moscow, Russia. In 1991 Lance was the U.S. National Amateur Champion and remained an amateur through the Olympic games that were held in Barcelona, Spain. Lance had a strong year in 1993, when he won the “Triple Crown” race (the Professional Championship). That same year Lance came in second place in the Tour DuPont. In August 1993, the 21-year-old won his most important race yet, the World Road Race Championship in Olso, Norway. “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever,” Armstrong would say.
In October 1996, the shocking news came that Lance had been diagnosed with cancer. The tumor was already well spread as Lance started chemotherapy and was given a 65 to 85 percent chance of survival.
Eventually, the cancer spread to his brain and he was given a 40 percent chance of survival.
“Anything is possible. You can be told you have a 90 percent chance or a 50 percent or even a 1 percent chance, but you have to believe and you have to fight,” Armstrong said during his chemotherapy. The surgery to remove his brain tumors was successful, and he was free from cancer by February 1997.
While fighting the disease, his $600,000 annual salary was dropped. After struggling to find a new sponsor, Armstrong signed a contract with the United States Postal Service team.
In the summer of 1999, one year after recovering fully from cancer, Armstrong qualified for the Tour de France, the 2,274-mile crown jewel of international cycling.
Rumors started that he had taken steroids but frequent blood tests proved them wrong. With a record-breaking average speed of 25 mph, Armstrong became the only American to win the Tour de France at the head of a largely American team.
The next year, he posted a record-breaking time of 92 hours, 33 minutes and 8 seconds for the Tour de France. He won the next five tours in France, beating Miguel Indurain’s record of five wins. He finally retired in 2005 after winning the tour for a record-setting seventh time.
Americans can draw inspiration from Lance Armstrong’s story. He proves you can do anything you put your mind to.
Jonathan Malthouse is a seventh-grader at Schenectady Christian School in Scotia.