Track Cyclist Katie Walker Has Found A New Coach In An Old Teammate, Chris Murphy
by Paul D. Bowker
Katie Walker couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
When two-time Paralympian Chris Murphy retired from competitive cycling following the UCI Cycling World Championships in August, a door swung open to coaching. And it swung in Walker’s direction.
Walker, who will make her Parapan American Games debut this week in Santiago, Chile, is now coached by Murphy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Walker not only is being coached by the nine-time world medalist, but she took his spot in the U.S. residency program in Colorado Springs.
“We are working really well together,” Walker said. “I’m out here in Colorado Springs. I have a lot of support. It makes it easier to progress. Right now, I’d say I’m in a good place to do really well.”
Walker, 37, a native of Taiwan who was adopted as a child and grew up in Ohio, competes in the WC5 class in track cycling. She placed sixth in the time trial at the world championships and also helped the U.S. to a sixth-place finish in team sprint. Walker is scheduled to race in the 500-meter time trial in Santiago and, for the first time, she said, in the 3000-meter individual pursuit. Track cycling events are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“She’s got a great opportunity in the 500,” said Ian Lawless, director of U.S. Paralympics Cycling.
Walker is among 15 U.S. cyclists, track and road, competing at the Parapan Am Games.
“Because it is a brand new experience, my first Parapans, it is exciting,” Walker said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Walker’s partnership with Murphy began almost immediately after the world championships took place in Glasgow, Scotland. Murphy won a silver medal at his eighth and last world championships, finishing second in the men’s time trial MC5.
One day, the two had lunch together and talked about forming an athlete-and-coach partnership.
“Are we going to do this?” Walker asked.
“Yeah, let’s do this,” Murphy said.
Murphy was always known for helping his U.S. Paralympics Cycling teammates. And since both Walker and Murphy are in the C5 classification, a familiarity already existed.
“He was good at guiding his teammates,” Walker said. “Coaching me is not any different. If anything, it’s better. He’s just way more knowledgeable than I could have imagined.”
At this year’s world championships, the pair raced together in the mixed team sprint.
“He was an athlete, so he understands athletes,” she said. “It’s really, really exciting and I’m super happy.”
Although she is competing in her first Parapan Am Games, Walker reached the international stage at the last two world championships. She placed fifth in the time trial in her world championships debut in 2022.
“Everybody wants to podium, right? My goal would be probably just to do the best that I can,” Walker said.
After the Parapan Am Games, the journey toward the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 really kicks up. The next UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships will be held in March in Rio de Janeiro, which will play a big part in Paralympic Games qualification.
“I’m motivated by Paris, but I’m also just one step at a time for me,” Walker said. “I’m really looking forward to Santiago and doing the best that I can. And after that will be worlds. It’s just kind of focusing on the next competition. If I do what I’m doing, progressing the way I am, then it should fall into place.”
Cycling is the second sport in which Walker has reached a world championships level. She had a pair of top-10 finishes in the 100- and 200-meter sprint races at the 2013 Para track and field world championships in Lyon, France. She competed in the long jump two years later in the world championships in Doha, Qatar.
Walker took a cycling class in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then cycling has been her focus. After being invited to a development camp by Sarah Hammer-Kroening, a four-time Olympic medalist who is head coach of the U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling team, Walker moved from San Diego to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Walker’s world championships debut last year came at the track cycling venue in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France, which will be used in next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. This year’s world championships races were held in Glasgow, where able-bodied and Para cyclists competed at the same venue.
“We had just an amazing time,” Walker said. “It was just really cool to see that caliber, just everybody in one venue racing. The environment was just electric. It was really cool.”
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.