Felt Bicycles is a proud supporter of US Military Endurance Sports, a registered 501 (c)3 non-profit amateur sports organization whose mission is “to promote endurance sports as part of a healthy lifestyle to active and Veteran members of the US Armed Forces.” USMES members are some of the most passionate cyclists and triathletes anywhere, and they’re as dedicated to promoting bike riding as part of a healthy lifestyle as they are serving the people of the United States and its allies. This blog series showcases a few USMES athletes who exemplify the spirit that all cyclists share, one of perseverance in the face of adversity and relishing the unique freedom that a bicycle can provide all individuals.
Jataya Taylor s a natural athlete, and a former ROTC kid who dreamed of a military career. While serving in the Marine Corps, Jataya was seriously injured in two training accidents. After a series of unsuccessful surgeries, Jataya was diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder that prevented her injuries from healing. Jataya was medically retired, which was emotionally devastating. In 2017, Jataya made the decision to have her left leg amputated and began her career as an adaptive athlete. Jataya is now a Paralympic hopeful for Nordic skiing, and also competes at a national level in para-cycling and wheelchair basketball.
FELT: Tell us how you first got into cycling.
Jataya: I began cycling in 2007 as a way to help with my mental health while recovering from my injuries. I bought my first triathlon bike in 2009 but, unfortunately, due to my changing medical conditions, I was never able to compete. In 2011, I could no longer ride an upright bike and, in 2012, I transitioned to a trike recumbent. In 2015, I could no longer use my legs and I transitioned to a handcycle. I consider every time I changed bike type a first because it was like entering an entirely new world.
FELT: In which branch of the military do you serve? Tell us about your service experience.
Jataya: I was medically retired from the US Marine Corps. I was injured during a training accident early in my career. There is nothing like having my entire future gone in an instant.
FELT: Tell us about your experience training and competing with USMES.
Jataya: This year I had finally decided to see my full potential and picked up where I left off all those years ago. I have not had the opportunity to compete under USMES yet, but I am learning from them and am using that to meet my goals and build my new future. I enjoy the opportunity to work with those who feel the same way about cycling and triathlon and compete at a higher level.
FELT: What are some interesting facts about yourself that you’d like to share
Jataya: I am a “Zebra”—as in, I have a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Most folks with this condition are not active at this level. But I do not let preexisting standards dictate how I live my life. The only thing that can hold me back is what is in between my ears.
FELT: Tell us about your short-term and long-term competitive goals.
Jataya: I am working towards classification and making times to compete on the national para cycling team with an ultimate goal of making the Paralympic Team.
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