Jun 20, 2024

Inspiring cyclist races toward summer Paralympic Games

How a devastating accident helped a Medtronic employee find new purpose and break a para-cycling record along the way

man cycling around corner

As a young teen cyclist, Bryan Larsen dreamed of someday racing internationally with a Team USA jersey on his back. Then in 2019, just as his elite cycling career started to wind down — dimming his hope of achieving that goal — a life-changing cycling accident robbed him of full-use of his right arm, introduced him to world of para-cycling, and provided him a chance to make his dream come true.

group of men cycling

Earlier this year, Larsen, 34, won three out of the six medals the US team earned at the Para-cycling World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, and in the process broke a national record set 10 years ago.  Now, Larsen, who works in marketing for the Medtronic Acute Care & Monitoring business, will compete in the 2024 Paralympic Games for track cycling on Team USA.

“Five years ago, I was sitting in an ICU and couldn’t move my arm and I couldn’t imagine any of this was possible,” Larsen said of his Paralympic potential. “So the idea of competing in the games is something that really matters to me. I’m just so proud of myself that I didn’t give up.”

Larsen doesn’t remember crashing face-first at 40 miles per hour during a 2019 race, but he has seen video of the accident.  The traumatic crash pulled the nerves that control his right arm out of his spine. Multiple surgeries, including a 12-hour nerve transfer surgery, left him partially paralyzed with limited strength, mobility, and control of his right arm.

During his recovery, he decided to return to cycling in a desperate need to stay positive in the face of a terrible situation. “I was looking for something to get me through this really hard time and I thought, ‘maybe there would be a space for me in this para-cycling community.’”

Indeed, there was. Larsen quickly realized he could apply what he learned from more than 20 years of racing and make some adjustments for his impairment. He quickly discovered his passion for track cycling and set aggressive goals for himself that led him to the 2022 and 2023 World Para-cycling Championships. But it was the 2024 World Championships that brought him the most success — shattering a 10-year-old national record.

That record-setting time earned him a spot in the Paralympic games that kick off in Paris in late August.

man holding metal

Until then, he’s training hard while also spreading his message about supporting others living with a disability.

“I’m fortunate that I have a social and athletic platform that I can stand on and share with others,” said Larsen. “I’m hopeful that my openness with this challenge can empower others in similar situations to be confident with who they are. There are people out there in the disability community quietly putting in their own hard work and accomplishing some amazing things without the spotlight on them. Most of their stories are even more incredible and should be celebrated and recognized.”


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