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Oswego cyclist going for gold at London Paralympic Games

2012 USA Paralympic Cycling Team member Joe Berenyi Oswego Ill. races Wood Dale Ill. Sunday July 1 2012.

| Andrew A.

2012 USA Paralympic Cycling Team member Joe Berenyi of Oswego, Ill., races in Wood Dale, Ill., on Sunday, July 1, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |

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Updated: August 5, 2012 6:08AM

All those rides on all those lonesome stretches of country roads were worth it for U.S. gold medal para-cyclist Joe Berenyi.

The 43-year-old Oswego man will join an elite group of athletes this summer when London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games from July 27 to Aug. 12 and Paralympic Games from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.

“It was long-shot dream for me,” Berenyi said.

Berenyi made the U.S. cycling squad last week at the U.S. Paralympic Road Cycling National Championships in Augusta, Ga.

Berenyi was forced to relinquish his passion for sports one year into competitive cycling after a life-altering construction accident nearly 18 years ago.

Berenyi lost his right arm, severely broke a leg and shattered a kneecap in the on-the-job accident.

After surgery and several years without any sports in his life, the Aurora Central Catholic High School alum decided to ride the bike trails.

“The competitiveness came back,” he said.

Berenyi resumed cycling competitively and set his sights on making the 2012 Paralympics cycling team, after winning several gold medals in national competitions.

“It kept me going on those tougher cold, wet days riding my bike outside and in the basement on the trainer,” Berenyi said.

Berenyi competes on a two-wheel racer that is modified by Prairie Path Cycles in Batavia and Winfield, his primary sponsors. His bikes are equipped with electronic shifting gears to accommodate his needs.

“All of the controls are on one side for shifting gears and the brakes have a cable splitter to one lever. But other than that, it is a standard bike,” he said.

Berenyi said cycling has strengthened his legs and has improved his walking capabilities. He said his “open day” workouts of 50 to 70 miles at average speeds of 22 mph generally are trips on the open roads to Morris, Plano, Newark and Plainfield, where there are fewer motorists.

The 2012 U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team roster includes six men and seven women in 11 sport classes. Berenyi said while it was his dream to go to London, his new goal is on winning “the medal.”

Berenyi said he hopes his wife and three daughters (ages 7, 8 and 10) will join him in London.

“I raise my daughters by example — there’s no quitting,” he said.

Mike Farrell and Mary Lee, co-owners of Prairie Path Cycles, have been his chief sponsors.

“I have never met anyone who is as dedicated, focused and works as hard as Joe,” Farrell said. “He does it with the support of his family and friends.”

The Batavia bicycle shop’s amateur cycling club, Athletes by Design, hosted a fundraiser last week, where members of the racing community donated gifts for a silent auction, with hopes of raising sufficient funds to cover the finances to send Berenyi’s wife and children to London this summer.

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