Arna Albertsdottir - Focused on 2020 for Iceland
In 2015, Arna Albertsdottir became the first athlete from Iceland to compete at a UCI World Championship when she raced at the UCI Para-cycling World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, as a H3 rider, finishing 14th in the time trial and 13th in the road race - last in both events. This year, at the recent UCI Para-cycling World Cup in Emmen, Netherlands, Albertsdottir finished seventh in the road race and eighth in the time trial and is currently ranked tenth in the world - a huge improvement!
Albertsdottir was the only handcycle athlete in Iceland in 2015, and the only person in her town with a spinal injury.
"I thought of swimming but the swimming pools were not accessible with a wheelchair. Then I went on the Internet and found out about handcycling. You couldn't buy a handbike in Iceland, so I ordered one. I didn't know anything!"
Since then, she has been working hard to improve. "I've definitely learned a lot, both with more training and racing; in my first big race in 2015 I really had no idea what I was getting into, and I still have a lot to learn and experience to gain. I've had a couple of injuries and illnesses that have interfered with my training, especially this year, but overall I've been doing well."
In 2015, Albertsdottir was limited by the Iceland climate to a lot of indoor training, and occasional efforts on the local airport runway.
"The bike is in my living room for at least six months of the year," she said at the time. "Luckily my dad works at an airport and, as there are only two flights a day, I sometimes get to ride the runway!"
Now, she has an opportunity to attend training camps in warmer climates, but it is still difficult. "I do most of my training in Iceland, and a lot on the trainer inside, at least 6 months of the year. This winter I went to Mallorca, which was very enjoyable. February in Mallorca was better than the Icelandic summer - we've been having one of the worst summers for 100 years; it's been very cold and wet."
She is also grateful for all the support she has received. "I do get a lot of support and still have the same trainer, but we've added some new trainers to our team, who have been very helpful, both with experience in endurance training and cycling. My equipment is pretty much the same but that will hopefully get updated for next season."
She also reports that she is no longer the only handcyclist in Iceland! "I'm very pleased to say that there are a few other handcyclists in Iceland now, and I'm sure that they will start racing very soon."
Despite the struggle, Arna is still focused on her goal of representing her country at the Paralympics. "Yes, that is still my goal for 2020; it's optimistic, but I think it's mentally good to have big goals to focus on."