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Sharing Spaces: Cyclist makes elite team after near death experience 30 years ago

Sharing Spaces: Cyclist makes elite team after near death experience 30 years ago
Posted at 8:51 PM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 16:38:11-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Local athlete, Orlando Gonzalez, has lived his life pursuing his passion, running and cycling at the highest level of competition. Over 30 years ago his dreams came to a stop, an accident that could have been prevented by sharing spaces.

"There is an adrenaline rush that I receive from riding and running at a high tempo. Apart from the competitive running that I was doing in college, I was still in the offseason competing in triathlons and bicycle races," Gonzalez said. "I've always had a love for all three (cycling, running and swimming)."

Gonzalez dedicated miles to training, staying on track and finally qualifying for Team USA in the Duathlon World Championship in Ibiza, Spain. He finished in the top-15 in his age group, 50-59 years-old, to advance.

"I am very proud. I am very proud to represent Team USA, but it was very competitive," Gonzalez said. "I was very intimidated, but I just ran as hard as I could, cycled as hard as I could and when it was all over eventually the results were posted and I was very impressed, surprised and pleased on seeing my name making the team."

Like most athletes Gonzales had obstacles to overcome…But on July 14, 1992 Gonzalez went from being ranked the third best duathlete in Texas to almost losing his life. He was cycling down Ocean Drive when a truck hit him from behind near Airline and Paloma. Gonzalez suffered a broken back, dislocated shoulder, collapsed lungs, broken jaw, concussion & several teeth knocked out.

"It was a very trying time for me. It put me out for about a year and a half of recovery. Fortunately I was wearing my helmet. I never travel, ride my bike without a helmet," Gonzalez said. "I was fortunate that I continue to have the passion to continue to pursue the sport once I recovered. I slowly started running again and cycling again."

Gonzalez's first competition back was in College Station, and the duathlon community happily welcomed him back.

"As an honor he said I'm going to give you Orlando number 1. I want you to wear number 1 as your welcome back," Gonzalez said. "He gave me the race number 1, and I had already been training quite well."

While some of his friends gave up the sport, because of the incident, Gonzalez refused to let fear stop him. Running and cycling is his passion.

"I managed to place first overall in the duathlon in College Station. To have shocked everybody and that was my way back," Gonzalez said. "I knew hey I was going to be okay, and little by little I just kept pursuing it and training and racing and this is where I'm at today."

After all the training, unfortunately bad weather canceled Gonzalez's flight. He could not travel and compete with team USA in the Duathlon World Championships in Spain this past Sunday, April 30.

For a closer look at the issue and regional response click here, and for a list of the Texas Laws click here.