Biker with Cystic Fibrosis rides to sucess


Connor Paola

Connor Paola, a senior, rides through a competition.

Livia Lowe, science editor

Connor Paola rides with the mountain bike team despite having a terminal illness called Cystic Fibrosis.
“It makes breathing harder, and makes you feel really weird because sometimes you can’t keep up the speed that everyone else can, and so doing normal things like going on a hike with people can be difficult because it’s so hard to breathe,” said Connor Paola, a senior.
Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic, progressive disease that causes breathing impairments, persistent coughing, and lung infections.
According to the CF Foundation, mucus in the body is too thick due to a dysfunctional Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) protein. Because mucus is so thick in those who have CF, they must do breathing treatments every day and take medication to fight lung infections and assist in digestion. Additionally, patients must stay in the hospital occasionally if they become too ill.
Despite having CF, Paola participates in the mountain biking team. Mountain biking involves riding on all types of terrain in multiple weather conditions.
“My reward as a coach is not only when a rider achieves a win, reaches the podium or sets a personal best time on a certain course but when they push through a practice that they started feeling tired, stressed, or just lacked any confidence at all to do well-but they leave feeling like a new person because they overcame huge hill climb repeats or rode a very technical section during practice and it made them realize they can do anything they set their mind to,” said James Bruce, mountain biking coach.
Fitness and biking skills are the pillars of the sport that advanced technical skills and competitive ability stand upon.
Staying fit helps CF patients become healthier because it assists in clearing mucus from he airways, improving lung function. While there is not yet a mountain biking event held by the CF Foundation, there is an annual walk to raise money for CF research.
While the walk itself is free, participants have the option to purchase a $10 luminary bag with a name on it to honor someone they know with the disease.
All in all, mountain biking helps Paola stay healthy while doing something he is passionate about.