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Carpenter-Phinney, Connie (1957—)

Carpenter-Phinney, Connie (1957—)

American cyclist who won more national and international cycling titles than any American cyclist, male or female. Name variations: Connie Carpenter. Born Connie Carpenter in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 26, 1957; married Davis Phinney (a professional cyclist).

Winner of the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in cycling in the Los Angeles Olympics (1984), the first cycling medal for the U.S. since 1912.

Connie Carpenter-Phinney began her cycling career as a speed skater on the frozen lakes and ponds of Wisconsin. At 14, she made the U.S. Olympic speed-skating team with Anne Henning, Diane Holum , and Sheila Young . She finished seventh in the 1,500 meters (88th of a second out of medal contention). Her speed-skating career was short lived, however, because of an ankle injury in 1976.

Her older brother Chuck and Sheila Young, world champion speed skater and cyclist, introduced her to cycling. In her first year (1976), Carpenter won the national championship in road race and pursuit, titles she would win again in 1977 and 1978. At her first international competition, the world championship road race (1977), she won a silver medal. She also won the Coors International Classic in 1977, 1981, and 1982, as well as three national titles in 1981. In 1983, she injured her wrist but managed to defend her national pursuit title.

In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, site of the first women's cycling event in the history of the Games, her main competition for the grueling 79.2-kilometer road race was her roommate, Rebecca Twigg . Because of all the "media hype" over their supposed rivalry, Carpenter-Phinney leaned over to Twigg just before the race and advised: "If one of us isn't the winner, we'll have to crawl home." Only five women remained in contention during the last 800 meters. At 100 meters, Carpenter-Phinney and Twigg became the leading competitors, passing Germany's Sandra Schumacher . When the two reached the finish line in an all-out sprint, Carpenter-Phinney forced herself forward, a technique she calls "throwing her bike," to win the race by less than half-a-wheel length; her gold medal time was 2:11:14. The United States had not won a gold medal in an international cycling event since 1912.

Between 1976 and 1984, Carpenter-Phinney won 12 national championships, four world championships, and three Coors International Classics. No American cyclist, male or female, had ever been so victorious. She was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1990, having retired from competitive cycling to conduct cycling training camps in Colorado with her husband.

Karin L. Haag , Athens, Georgia

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