With just under two weeks to go, engines are firing and and teams are making their last preparations before they head to the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa from 31 August – 3 September. Team USA will be bringing a 22-member-strong team (including 16 Paralympians and three returning Road World Champions). Included in the team is Army veteran Freddie de los Santos.
Born in the Dominican Republic, De los Santos grew up in West Harlem, New York, joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks and became a special operations staff sergeant. On 20 October 2008, whilst serving in Afghanistan, De los Santos was wounded when a rocket-propelled grenade (RGB) his his patrol vehicle, resulting in the loss of his leg.
He began para-cycling in 2011. De los Santos said: “Through my recovery process, I have been participating in hand cycling in order to rebuild strength and endurance while improving my quality of life. Cycling has greatly helped me recover physically, mentally and socially. It’s the most rewarding experience being able to compete despite my disabilities.”
De los Santos has since 2008 competed in over 26 marathons in a racing chair, and represented the USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, but feels like his greatest achievement is still yet to come. “I'm always looking to achieve more tomorrow than I did today and to improve myself at all times,” he added.
De los Santos has a great love and passion for art and design. Before joining the army, he worked for seven years as a graphic designer. He now uses abstract art to as the medium to convey emotions, feelings and memories related to the trauma suffered during and long after the incident.
“Art has always been one of my passions. After I got severely wounded, I have been dealing with mental trauma, and art has become the vehicle I use to illustrate what I'm going through. Through my art, I want people to navigate through the mental and physical trauma I have gone through,” he said.
For more information about the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, go to: https://www.cyclingsa.com/2017-uci-para-road-world-champs/
For more information about Para-cycling, please visit http://www.uci.ch/para-cycling/.