Amy Dixon is restricted to waving hello to the YMCA maintenance workers. What she won’t do is say goodbye to her Olympic dream.
“Hopefully soon we will all be able to be back at the Y,” Dixon said. “The people there are like my family and I miss them.”
Dixon lives adjacent to the Magdalena Ecke YMCA in Encinitas and she is a regular in its weight room and pool. From her backyard she can see the facility and, on a clear day, all the way to Japan.
“You don’t need to have sight to have vision,” Dixon said.
Dixon, a member of the USA Paratriathlon national team, has eyesight that is compromised. But she’s focused on a future destination and she won’t allow it to be delayed.
Although that is just what the coronavirus has done to her dream of competing this summer in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Her training at the YMCA ended when it closed on March 16 to slow the spread of the virus.
“Unfortunately, all of us competitors around the world are in the same boat,” Dixon said.
Dixon’s orbit revolves around sweating. There are few days off for the reigning paratriathlon national champion, who is ranked No. 6 in the world.
So she uses elastic bands on her yoga mat to simulate swimming while in quarantine. She hops on a stationary bike to get her miles. And she resumed her running on a high-intensity treadmill provided by Primo Fitness CEO Leo Marangi.
“I can’t use a regular treadmill because I run too fast on it,” Dixon said.
Everything in the sports world has had the brakes tapped and that includes Dixon’s quest to represent Uncle Sam in Japan. The games were postponed until next summer, which isn’t that big of deal to Dixon, right?
“It was pretty devastating for me,” Dixon said. “I’m 44 years old so this is going to be my last shot at the Olympics. To push that back a year means I have to adjust to an additional 12 months of very, very high-intensity workouts and that can be physically and emotionally exhausting.”
Not to mention the cost that accompanies it — think coaching, equipment, sports massage, chiropractor.
“That too is a little disconcerting for me,” she said.
Bet against Dixon at your own risk. My money is on this inspirational athlete oozing with talent, gumption and a belief that few can match.
Dixon has just 2% of her eyesight after a rare autoimmune disease infected her when she was 22. She has undergone 33 surgeries to try to stall its progress.
“There is no cure for the disease but they can slow it down and that’s the goal,” she said.
Steroid treatments were used to fight it in its early stages and that led to Dixon gaining 75 pounds. That put her disease in remission and fueled Dixon’s goal to get fit into overdrive.
“I was very sick and then I wanted to get back to feeling like I did,” Dixon said.
Then living in Connecticut, Dixon started swimming at her YMCA. She knew it was 17 strokes to travel the length of the pool, so she could do it unassisted.
Next came running on a treadmill, and then she borrowed a tandem bike, and found a friend to get her rides in.
Voila! — a triathlete was born and so was a calling that extends to her personal life, too.
Dixon is the founder of Camp No Sight No Limits as she helps mold the next wave of sight-impaired competitors.
“Your only limitation is in your head,” Dixon tells her charges, “not your body.”
Dixon’s body of work is impressive. But she’s quick to note that it’s the result of a community-wide effort, with coaches and partners like Ken Axford and Cindy Gary lending a hand.
And Woodstock, Dixon’s faithful dog, is always by her side or awaiting her return.
“He’s not getting much work in as a guide dog these days because we don’t go out much,” she said. “So we’re playing catch four times a day.”
In between workouts, of course, as Dixon gets through the dog days of an extended countdown for the Paralympic Games.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him @jparis_sports.