Kristin Armstrong Found Balance at UI and on the Bike
Section of Paradise Path set to be renamed for alumna and Olympic cyclist
For Kristin Armstrong, the path from University of Idaho student to three-time Olympic gold medalist was one of determination and grit.
While she’s now a household name for cycling excellence, the longtime Boise resident didn’t necessarily shine at UI for her athletic prowess.
“Early on, I wasn’t a super-star athlete. I played every sport, but never was chosen for the all-star team, nor was I told that I was going to go on and earn a collegiate scholarship,” she said. “What got me to the top is character. I was able to rise to the top of my sport and be the best through passion and perseverance – together this makes grit. Grit and determination was key in winning three consecutive gold medals.”
Armstrong learned that grit in the classrooms at UI, where she focused on her studies, but was also part of a supportive environment where she could connect with her professors and be held accountable for the work she did.
It also took focus for her to excel and find balance among her various passions, whether it was bonding with her sisters at Kappa Kappa Gamma, training for a season with the track and cross-country teams, keeping her body and mind healthy, or taking part in intramurals — including ultimate Frisbee, soccer and softball.
“Having balance is an important component of being successful,” Armstrong said. “I have found this to be true as a student, business woman, professional athlete and mom.”
“The college experience that I dreamed of having, I had at the University of Idaho,” said Armstrong, who has had a distinguished career in sports medicine after graduating from the College of Education in 1995. Her intentions were to go on to physical therapy or physician’s assistant school, but after realizing she couldn’t do it all, she followed the path of becoming a professional athlete.
Armstrong would take up cycling in the years following her time at UI. She went on to earn gold medals in the cycling time trial at the 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic games.
That achievement — as well as her passion for helping others live active, healthy lives — is why UI officials chose to rename the portion of Paradise Path that crosses UI’s campus the Kristin Armstrong Bike Path. The path will be dedicated Sept. 9.
It’s not the first route named in Armstrong’s honor: The road to the Bogus Basin ski area, a popular cycling route near Boise, also is named for her — a fact she said keeps fellow cyclists inspired as they climb to the base elevation at 5,790 feet.
“I’ve had fellow cyclists say all they wanted to do halfway up the mountain is turn around and then they see my sign and say, ‘Kristin Armstrong wouldn’t turn around,’” she said.
While Paradise Path may not boast a several-thousand-foot rise in elevation, Armstrong still hopes the newly named bike path will inspire generations of families and kids in the community, as well as the students who use it for their commute.
“The University of Idaho was great to me, I learned so much there,” Armstrong said. The supportive environment and overall college experience is one she looks back on with fondness.
A longtime Boise resident, Armstrong recently retired from competitive cycling after winning a third gold medal last summer in Rio. She and husband Joe Savola – also a UI alum – have one son, Lucas, age 7. Armstrong spends her time public speaking, being a mom and recently accepted a job with USA Cycling. She will serve as USA Cycling’s endurance performance director, helping the next generation of Olympic cyclists go after their dreams of gold during the 2020 games in Tokyo.
“I can’t imagine anything better than helping the best cyclist in the nation bring home the gold. I have four Olympics under my belt and have a lot of experiences to share. And, of course, will continue to put my sports medicine degree from UI to good use,” she said.
Kristin Armstrong Paradise Path Bikeway Dedication
Starting 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9
Due to air quality concerns, parade is canceled.