By Scott Greenstone, Seattle Times staff reporter
When Rebecca Twigg was 7, she rode a bike for the first time. There were no training wheels, but Twigg took off like she’d done it in a previous life. She fell only when she realized she didn’t know how to stop, and steered into a wall.
“I took to the road like I was born to do it,” Twigg says today. “Except for the little part about stopping. I’m not a very good planner.”
The Seattle-raised athlete went on to become one of the most famous American cyclists in the ’80s and ’90s, winning six world championships and medaling in two Olympics. She appeared on cycling magazine covers, in sponsor ads and in features in Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.
But then, in 1996, she left the team abruptly during the Olympics and the next year, retired from cycling. She re-entered the workforce. It didn’t work out.
“Once you’ve done something that feels like you’re born to do it, it’s hard to find anything that’s that good of a fit,” Twigg says today. “Anything else that feels that way.”
Rebecca Twigg has now been without a home for almost five years in Seattle, living first with friends and family, then in her car, then in homeless shelters and then, for a night, under garbage bags on the street downtown. She hasn’t had a bike for years, and no one recognizes her anymore, she says.
I was in the US Olympic Cycling Coaching Program in the late 1980’s and early 90’s and met Rebecca once and saw her working out many times in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. She seemed to be a very dedicated and down-to-earth person. It’s a shame that this has happened to her.
So many athletes put it all on the line with very little financial backing during their amateur athletic career. Once that career is over most don’t have any financial backing and struggle to reinvent themselves. I speak from experience on this, both as a reinvented athlete and coach. Reinvention skills are the key to life.
— R. Michael Brown