As a youngster growing up in Wisconsin, Connie Carpenter would often cross the street to a flooded playground and go ice skating.
“Girls didn’t have a lot of sporting opportunities and I was always extremely active,” she said. “I skated every night on that rink.”
It seemed natural, at the Sapporo 1972 Olympic Winter Games, when Carpenter made her Olympic debut as a 14-year-old speedskater, placing seventh in the 1,500-meter race.
Following the Olympics, Carpenter returned to school and continued training, thinking that her skating career was just getting started. But an ankle injury prevented her from going out for the U.S. team that would head to the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic Winter Games.
“I didn’t make the team and I was devastated,” she said.
Instead, as part of her recovery, Carpenter took up competitive cycling. She was a natural, eventually winning 12 national championships.
After high school, Carpenter matriculated to the University of California, Berkeley, where her incredible athletic ability was on display – though in a much different venue. Carpenter joined the Golden Bears’ crew team and won a national collegiate championship. Back on the bike, Carpenter prepared for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and the first-ever women’s cycling Olympic event, a 79.2-kilometer road race. Carpenter-Phinney (she married fellow Olympian cyclist Davis Phinney in 1983) edged teammate Rebecca Twigg at the finish line by less than half a wheel length to cap her incredible career with a gold medal.