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Although Billy Lister has not been looking toward the Olympics since he was a child, his focus on Rio and the Olympic games of the future are what pushes him through cycling today. The MC1 classified cyclist participated in three races in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the men’s C1 3000m individual pursuit, the men’s C1-2-3 1000m time trial, and the men’s time trial C1 road race and he won 6th, 23rd, and 5th respectively. Behind every success story, however, is hard work.
His life has definitely not been without struggles. Lister was diagnosed with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in his brain when he was 15 years old. An AVM is a tangle of abnormally formed arteries and veins which have a high chance of bleeding and thus is extremely dangerous to have in the brain.
Lister underwent invasive surgery at age 16 and while it was successful in curing his AVM, complications after surgery caused his brain to swell and he began to experience a gradual stroke. He slowly began to lose the ability of his left side. Each day he was unable to do something he was able to do the day before until he lost all use of his left side.
As someone who had played sports his whole life, this transition was very difficult for Lister. For 12 years he just went through the motions of life rather than really living it. Then, in 2011, Lister attended at para-triathlon event that changed his life forever. He rode a bike for the first time since he was 17 and realized that he had just as many opportunities as an adaptive athlete. In 2013 Lister fully dedicated his training to cycling and started competing nationally and globally. He was a shock to the para-cycling world and did much better in his first races than anyone thought he would.
Eventually Lister’s commitment to cycling and the hundreds of hours he had spent training, both on and off the bike, paid off. He was chosen to be one of eighteen athletes would be on the US cycling team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Lister praises others more than himself for this achievement, including his dog, Potter, who has stood with him through every training session and grueling workout, and the National Stroke Association who has helped him throughout his journey to become a Paralympic athlete.
Lister is clearly a fighter. He fought through an AVM, the loss of his left side, the struggles of becoming an adaptive athlete, and even completed his third race in Rio after fracturing his elbow. No matter how many times he falls or experiences difficulty, Billy Lister has the passion, positivity, and talent to get back on the bike and ride.
We were excited to have a conversation with Billy to hear about his experiences in Rio and what he took away from his time there. Please click below to listen!