Injury propelled Alexander onto bike, and into Olympics

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

[5/25/03]Curiously enough, Joel Alexander can thank a sprained ankle for him being able to represent Mississippi in the 40 kilometer bicycle road race at this summer’s Senior Olympics.

Even stranger, Alexander suffered the injury while running in the 1970s.

The now 56-year-old Alexander found he could still pedal a bicycle even with the sore ankle, and has stuck with the habit in the 30 years since.

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“I never got off,” Alexander said. “It’s pretty much what I do.”

In the past 20 years, Alexander has been a part of the United States Cycling Federation and has competed in races in Vicksburg, Jackson, Louisiana and Texas.

Last summer Alexander placed first in the 55-60 age group in the Mississippi 40 kilometer road race to qualify for the national competition.

Since that time he has increased his training regimen.

Alexander commutes from his home in Vicksburg to Dallas for seminary training at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. While in Dallas, he cycles on a track on Tuesday nights, in addition to three other training sessions per week.

He will travel to Hampton Roads, Va., for his first trip to the Senior Olympics, which runs from May 26 through June 9. The National Senior Games Association puts on the event.

Alexander said he expected to face more challenging riders at the event than what he faced at the state level.

“I expect the competition to be fierce at the national level,” he said. “A number of former Olympians will be competing.

“I’d be happy with a top-10 finish.”

Alexander said much of his enthusiasm for cycling comes from the lack of physical strain it causes while providing a strong workout.

With cycling not causing much wear and tear, Alexander said, he expects to be riding competitively into his 90s.