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Madison’s Cook trains teammate
Dixon for 2016 Paralympics

Dixon is ranked 11th among
visually impaired triathletes

Amy Dixon of Greenwich, Conn., is accustomed to her plans changing. She had initially planned to become a pharmacist. Unfortunately, a diagnosis that would result in the loss of her eyesight changed those plans.
Dixon, 38, responded by focusing on another talent of hers that uses her other senses. She began to follow the career path of a sommelier, or a trained wine specialist, in wine bars and stores. She now owns her own wine bar in Connecticut called The Wine Lab.

Cook, Dixon

Photo by Jenny Straub Youngblood

Lindsey Cook (in front) steers and directs Amy Dixon on a tandem bicycle while practicing in Madison, Ind., for the 2016 Paralympics.

A year and a half ago, Dixon faced another struggle of weight gain after a broken foot. She was exhausted and uncomfortable a majority of the time. With characteristic optimism, she decided she was “sick of being fat.” She embarked on a physical mission that soon had her feeling much better. When a friend suggested that she try a triathlon as a way to continue to improve her physical fitness, she agreed that the challenge would be a positive thing for her.
Dixon knows she will lose her eyesight, but she does not know when. In the meantime, she plans to focus on the things that she is able to do. It turns out she is able to compete in a triathlon very well. Dixon hopes to add becoming a member of the National Paralympic Team to her growing list of accomplishments and is ranked 11th of all visually impaired female tri-athletes in the world and second in the United States. 
Madison, Ind., resident Lindsey Cook met Dixon in May at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Cook acts as a guide or pilot for many visually impaired or blind athletes. Cook was invited to Colorado to pilot Dixon’s tandem bicycle and for both women to increase their tandem cycling skills. Dixon said the pair had been wanting to race with each other for some time without ever having met each other.
Being told that Cook would be her guide during the training camp, Dixon recalls asking, “The Lindsey Cook?” The duo immediately clicked and say that they are “meant to be a team.” By the end of training camp, they were completing each other’s sentences and reading one another’s thoughts.

Paracycle

Photo by Jenny Straub Youngblood

From left, Lindsey Cook and Amy Dixon train on their tandem bicycle.

Cook began training with a friend who is a blind athlete in 2009. This eventually led to her first race as a guide in 2011. Guides are required to be able to run one mile per minute faster than the athletes whom they are accompanying. They must be able to speak clearly in order to inform the athlete of what lies on the path ahead. Cook is one of three elite level guides in the country, and assists many athletes with their physical goals. It is obvious that Cook finds her role very rewarding and speaks of developing very special connections with the people she guides.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Dixon and Cook participated in the USA Para-Cycling Nationals in Madison, Wisc. Their time met an emerging athlete time standard, which brings the pair one step closer to being considered for the Para-Cycling National Team. As a result of being awarded the bronze medal in the event, the pair is now ranked third in the country for female tandem Para-Cycling.
Cook, who has lived in numerous locations including Tokyo and Chicago, says the Madison, Ind., community has been incredibly supportive of her urge to guide visually impaired and blind athletes. Fundraising was a necessity for her trip to Colorado Springs. Assistance was received from local businesses such as Shooters Restaurant, The Downtowner, Heitz Sign Co., Chandler Chevrolet as well as Madison natives John and Maureen Wurtz. Stacy and John Crawley of Crawley Heating and Cooling also did some independent fundraising for Cook’s trip. Cook said that it is this level of friendship and community that keeps her living in our area.
Dixon also found Madison to be a very friendly town. She said that she usually finds crossing a street with her guide dog, Elvis, to be very similar to playing a game of Frogger. However, she noticed that residents of Madison would wait politely for her to cross the street in a safe manner.
The 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro is still 18 months away but seems to be approaching as quickly as Cook and Dixon can complete a 20K bike ride. Donations for Dixon’s fund can be made by searching for Dixon’s name on the USABA Athlete Development Accounts website.

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