In spite of serious sensory disabilities, Baldwinsville native Kathy Urschel has become one of the sporting world’s greatest role models. A lover of horses, she attended Cazenovia College and earned a degree in Equine Studies as well as a Business Management in 1984.
Urschel lost her sight in 1985 at the age of 21 and lost her ability to hear seven years later in 1991. But in 1991, she earned a BS degree in Education from Syracuse University and was recipient of the prestigious Burton Blatt Scholarship when she pursued her Master degree in Education and Rehabilitation Counseling. Her academic achievements were recognized when she was listed in “Who’s Who Among Students” in 1992.
In 1996, Urschel carried the Olympic flame as a part of the Olympic Torch Parade through Central New York. That same year she was a silver medalist in the Olympic/Paralympics in Atlanta. She and her partner held the American record in 3K mixed-pair team cycling event. Two years later, she was a member of a six-person team that set a world record in the 16 th Race across America (Irvine, California to Savannah, Georgia) in six days 21 hours. She is a two-time tandem cycling Para Olympian, Atlanta in 1996, when she won silver; and Sydney in 2000, when she finished 11th.
Urschel was implanted with the Nucleus 22 cochlear implant that restored her hearing. Nucleus technology enables Urschel’s tandem cycling pilot at the front of the bike to issue racing commands through a microphone wired to her external electronic speech processor. The processor sends the commands to her internal implant, which allows her to hear by electrically stimulating her hearing nerve.
Despite competing in the World Velodrome Track Racing in Colorado Springs and the Coastal Match Sprint Track Race, 1999 was a difficult year for Urschel. She took a horrible spill suffering multiple injuries while training for the 2000 Paralympics/Olympics. During her hospitalization, Urschel's immobility resulted in blood clots forming in the arteries of her legs. This led to a stroke and doctors told her she would never walk again. No stranger to overcoming adversity, two weeks and four days after the accident, Urschel had her foot back on the pedal. The Urschel spirit prevailed and Urschel continued her amazing career of doing and caring.
In 2004, she was back on the bike and won a 37-mile race in Binghamton.
Died in 2010
1997: Named Post-Standard Woman of Achievement
1996: Carried Olympic Torch; silver medalist in the Olympic/Paralympics in Atlanta
1998: Became the first woman to complete the 3600 mile Trans-Continental Triathlon and was given a National Communication Award at the Kennedy Center.
2000: Named a Woman of Distinction by the New York State Senate.