My name is Greta Neimanas. I’m a two-time Paralympian in the sport of Paralympic cycling and a two-time World Champion. I knew that I wanted to be an athlete from a very young age, five or six years old. I just decided that I wanted to be a professional athlete and there is a great sports program in Chicago for kids with disabilities, so I was able to take advantage of that. And we went to Athens in 2004 to see the Paralympic Games in Greece. Track cycling was one of the first events that we saw and it blew my mind. It just was incredible being in the velodrome, looking down the banking of the track, watching people race around, essentially, this big wooden salad bowl on a bike with no brakes, one gear, fixed gear, just flying. It seemed awesome to me and so, I knew that I wanted to try it. And as soon as I did, I was hooked.
I remember some of the first camps that I did with the National Team. I was still a development athlete, but had the opportunity to go to the senior level training camps, is kind of a experience and sort of see where I shook out in relation to the people who were actually making it as an athlete. And I just remember being there, really having no business at this camp, just totally under prepared and out of my league by miles. And everybody on the team was so supportive and so encouraging from day one and encouraged me to pursue cycling, to pursue this passion that I had and to make it happen. And I could not have done it without the support of my future teammates, who really were there for me from the start.
Respect in cycling is really, really important to us and I think that it’s sort of the value of the old school mindset of cycling in that you respect your competitors. And you see it in some of the big races on TV, if the leader, if the yellow jersey holder, crashes or has some kind of mechanical… Oftentimes, the field will actually slow and wait as a sign of respect instead of just saying, “Oh, well, forget them. They’re bad luck. They’re on their own.” But it’s like, “Okay, look, here’s the sporting competition. We’re all in here together. Everybody works just as hard as everybody else.”
When I was growing up, we always stressed the golden rule, treat others the way that you would want to be treated in return. And so, I think that that basic rule transfers into sports. I would not want to do anything that would be disrespectful to another competitor, and I expect my competitors to have that same mindset and, not just respect for me, but passion for the sport and respect for the whole institute of sport.