Monica Sereda has been through a lot the last few years. Now the out LGBTQ 24-year US Army vet is using that as motivation to show the world that she can bounce back from it by competing in para-cycling at the Paralympics.

Sereda has endured numerous injuries and health issues over the past several years that have tested her fortitude. But she also used the downtime brought on by the pandemic to heal in time to compete in Tokyo.

After retiring from the Army in 2011, Sereda suffered a massive accident when her car was struck by a truck in 2012, causing a traumatic brain injury and bodily damage that required doctors to fuse her neck and back.

Sereda began cycling as part of her rehabilitation program in 2014 and started entering competitions in 2017.

“It’s just you and the bike,” Sereda reflected to the Tampa Bay Times, “It brought me back to my childhood when you’re riding your little Schwinn with a banana seat…and motorcycle handlebars and we’d ride our bikes around.”

Unfortunately, that idyllic image was soon shattered by a series of calamities. A broken elbow in 2017 was followed by two broken ribs and a torn rotator cuff the next year. Then after recovering from those injuries, Sereda suffered two major ischemic heart episodes in 2019 and 2020.

But every time, she bounced back. After the Paralympics were postponed last year, Sereda took the extra time to heal and eventually get back on her bike once again.

“I had so much disappointment about the [2020] Games being postponed, it was hard,” she said, “But now, I see it was actually a blessing for me—a huge blessing. It let me get self-care, recover, and do rehab. It let me check in on myself and set big goals.”

The pandemic-enforced delay brought Sereda more than recovery time.

“I also found love,” she said. Indeed, 2021 also marks the one year anniversary for Sereda and her partner Samantha. Throughout Sereda’s rehab and training for the Paralympics, Samantha has been there the whole way. “She has been [a] wonderful amazing partner and supporter,.”

For many reasons, when Sereda races in Tokyo, there will be many reasons to cheer for this American veteran.