The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 10, 2019 1:00 am

Man in motion, man of faith

Vet credits God for his success on handcycle

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

There have been so many times when Fremont's Tom Davis could have given up because of the monumental challenges he's faced.

But each time Davis saw it as an opportunity for God to bring him back to something greater. He fought back by relying on his faith and has reaped tremendous experiences he's quick to share with any who will listen. Davis inspires, encourages and sets the example for others to follow.

He proves God creates miracles because he believes he is one.

Serving in Iraq on June 3, 2006, Davis was a U.S. Army staff sergeant when the truck he was riding in triggered a roadside bomb. Riding shotgun, Davis lost his left leg above the knee, broke both forearms, fractured his right knee and vertebra in his back, and cracked some bones in his head. He was also diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He recovered in the hospital for six or seven weeks and then spent 15 months rehabilitating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

But it was also while Davis was at Walter Reed that one of his therapists suggested he try a handcycle.

“When I was in high school (in Reading, Michigan) and college, I was a long-distance runner,” Davis said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I always just loved running. When I got hurt and couldn't run anymore, it was a pretty big blow. When I rode the handcycle around the hospital, it felt like I had my legs back again and it was like I was a kid again. It's been a love affair ever since.”

Because he was fully medically retired, Davis didn't need a job, but handcycling became his passion. He won his first of five straight Boston Marathon Paracycling championships in 2013. He just missed qualifying for the 2012 London Paralympics but qualified for Brazil four years later, finishing fifth in the time trials and sixth in the road race.

“I didn't show my faith and shrunk back and didn't do the things I was supposed to do,” Davis said about his performance in Brazil. “Afterwards, I remember going home and just feeling like a failure and I had let God down and I didn't want to ever feel that again.”

Rededicating himself, Davis produced his fastest performance ever at the Boston Marathon in 2017.

There were still more challenges. On Sept. 17, 2018, Davis was told he had colon cancer, and surgery removed the polyp. Then the following March, Davis suffered a broken rib during a snow-tubing accident. Two months later he was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome, requiring therapy, and in June he was seven minutes into the national championship race when the spokes on his wheel essentially exploded to force a crash.

“It affected me a little bit,” Davis said. “When a wheel breaks, you lose your trust in your equipment, and you don't want to worry about something breaking. I was going around a corner at 30 mph and the wheel broke and it kind of popped me up on two wheels. I was able to correct it but not stop and went straight into a crowd barrier.”

Still, Davis perseveres, and in late-September he won two silver medals at the world championships in Emmen, Netherlands. It was the first time in five Paralympics or world championships attempts that Davis had won a medal.

“If you're struggling (and aren't we all?), ask God to help,” Davis wrote on Facebook. “He wants nothing more than to see you through your trials and for you to draw closer to Him. And if you've done that and still don't have the answer, KEEP GOING!!!! He will answer you AT THE PROPER TIME. It took me 6 years of praying for world championship or Paralympic podiums to get here. It took so many crashes, mechanical problems, flat tires, and injuries that I can't even count before it was the proper time.”

As Turnstone Sports and Recreation Coordinator Kevin Hughes said, Davis is a perfect example of what sports – and God – can do for those who have suffered horrific injuries.

“He is taking everything from the situation he's in and made the most of it, beyond what anybody could,” Hughes said. “It would have been very easy for him to be a statistic and say, man, this is a tough card I've been dealt, but he took it and not only was he able to push himself to the max, but he's able to help others push themselves to the max.”

Now Davis is back riding around 300 miles a week through Steuben County and sometimes into northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, along with helping his wife Jamie raise their four children, ages 17, 14, 12 and 10. He's also looking forward to next year, shooting for June's world championships in Belgium and the Tokyo Paralympics in late-August. It may be his last chance.

“I'm hoping that I'll never stop riding, but I'm kind of on the fence if I will continue racing after next season,” said Davis, 42. “It's all consuming and a big strain on your body and family with the travel and training. Even days when I am here, I'm not always here.”

But retirement may give him more time to witness and share his story and testimony. Whatever happens, Davis will make the best of it.

“He's a guy that everybody can naturally look up to,” Hughes said. “He's just a very, genuine, solid person who works very hard on his end and motivates people to do the same. You can genuinely tell it is not a front. He is just an overall solid man who everybody can be proud of.”

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