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Meet David Cooper and His Guide Dog, Parnelli

By January 8, 2014 No Comments


David Cooper FLYs for the competition. Growing up in Aspen, Co, Cooper found his love for competitive sports at a young age. When a skiing accident left him blind at age 17, he didn’t let it slow him down. Years later he found himself in NYC, and not before long, in the stadium at Flywheel. Read his story:

It’s possible that my competitive nature was there the day I was born.  I grew up in Aspen, Colorado and was put on my first pair of skis when I was two-and-a-half years old. I found my love of competitive sports at an early age and always worked to incorporate competition into most things I did in life.  By the time I was eight, I was racing on the Aspen Ski Club.  On December 30, 1995, I was training for a ski race and had an accident that resulted in 100% loss of my vision. I was 17-years-old.  All of a sudden here I was, in the middle of my senior year of High School trying to figure out how to navigate this new version of myself.  I went back to school and finished my senior year, graduating on time with the rest of my class.  Then I went to the University of Colorado and graduated in four years with an A average.

By accomplishing those milestones, I had found some ways to remain competitive; however, I was still desperately missing the competition, which was such a big part of my personality.  Post-graduation, I took a Denver-based job in financial services and was traveling nearly 100,000 miles a year with my guide dog.  I’ve since flown over a million miles on United, and when an opportunity to move to New York City presented itself eight years ago, I decided to continue to challenge myself by making the move.  I love New York City and am always looking to explore new things, so when someone told me about this indoor cycling studio called Flywheel Sports, I thought, why not give it a try?

On my first day, I left my guide dog,  Parnelli, at the front desk and entered the stadium.  My instructor, Alison Cohen, explained that I could just adjust my torq and RPMs with a knob and that I could compete with everyone in the class by having my score on the torqboard. Now that I’m familiar with the bike, I always start class with the torq set to 15, and know that a quarter turn to the right is 6 points and a half a turn is 12 points. Not only do I get to compete with my fellow riders, but there’s loud, motivating music, I can track all of my progress online, and I can play on the same field as everyone else. If this isn’t my new version of competitive sports, I don’t know what is. Alright, I can’t actually see the screen—or the wall, but nothing motivates me more than when the instructor yells out, “Coop! You’re in 4th Place, 20 points behind the leader, so get your act together!”


These days, my dog Parnelli is a permanent fixture in the “Fly Lounge” and hopefully my name is on the top 3 on the board.  I’ve found a new competitive passion that allows me to compete equally with everyone else.  My favorite comment yet? Hearing “people both love and hate you.  They hate you because without seeing the numbers, you push yourself as hard as you can in every class and in turn, push everyone else to work that hard too.  They love you because when you beat them they have total respect.”

We’re so inspired by you, David! Check out this video segment of David speaking on behalf of National Geographic Wild speaking about his guide dog, Parnelli.

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