Cyclist star defies near-death setback

At the age of 52, Thom Ollinger, a West Milton resident who has been a recumbent bicycle racing competitor for 32 years, was in St.Rita’s Hospital in Lima for six weeks with a serious staff infection and a slim chance of surviving. He spent five days on a life support system when the blood disorder worsened and his organs began shutting down.

“It was a long and scary 135-day recovery ordeal and I was a patient in intensive care or five weeks,” said Ollinger. “The cause of the blood ordeal was a cut on my hand, that I didn’t have checked right away. It also affected my spine and I had to learn to walk all over again. After the hospital I was confined to six more weeks of home medicare treatments.”

But this Ollinger is fully recovered and a two-time record holder in the World Recumbent Racing Association. He holds the record in the Flying (running start) 200-meter race with a time of of 35.9. He then clocked 1:17 seconds in a one-kilometer race, breaking another record.

Ollinger gave special credit to his son, Charlie for helping him survive and rebound.

“Charlie was in the process of moving to Virginia for a new job when I went to the hospital,” said the father. “And I don’t think he missed a single day coming to the hospital. He just moved into my house and stayed by my side.”

When Ollinger isn’t out erasing WRRA records, he spends time in his garage building recumbent bikes, assisted by his son. He’s also in the business of streamlining the speedy bicycles with fiberglass covers. The covered bikes resemble a torpedo.

He said his older brother, Charlie from Portland, Ore., helped him design his slick bike bodies.

According to Ollinger the “recumbent bikes usually hit 35-40 MPH, but some of the covered bikes have been hitting close to 82 MPH. And that stream-lining has a lot to do with it, along with a few other mechanical improvements.”

Ollinger, who has worked the past two years as a machinist at the Silfix Co. in Eaton, is looking forward to a major race in September in Nevada.

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