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A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of FateFletcher School student Randy Jacobs discusses his decision to take time off to compete in the national pro mountain biking circuit.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.02.08] It has been said that fate works in mysterious ways. For Fletcher School student Randy Jacobs, fate came in the form of a broken foot.

"I've always been an athlete-I grew up playing football, basketball and what-not-and as I was applying to undergraduate institutions I was actually being recruited by schools, Tufts included, for football," Jacobs says. "Then my senior year in high school I broke my foot and that ended that."

As his foot began to heal, Jacobs said he decided to purchase a "beat up old mountain bike from Costco, just to get back in shape."

Now, seven years later, Jacobs has won two national mountain bike championships at the expert, or top amateur, level, elevating himself to semi-pro status. Most recently Jacobs competed in the USA Cycling Championships at Mount Snow in Vermont in July, where he was named champion in both the cross country and men's short track divisions.

"It is very much part of a wholesome, healthy lifestyle," Jacobs says. "It's easy on the joints, it can get a little expensive, but it's a lot more enjoyable than running."

In the beginning, Jacobs had aimed low in terms of where he had thought his mountain biking career would take him.

"When I decided I wanted to start racing competitively, my goal was to be a good local level pro rider," Jacobs says. "Now I am thinking, instead of just being a local pro, I want to take time off of school to train full-time with a coach and a team and everything, hoping to be an international pro."

When Jacobs first started biking after his injury, the Waltham, Mass. native had packed up his low-end mountain bike and headed to Martha's Vineyard for the summer before beginning his undergraduate career at Northeastern. It was in Martha's Vineyard that he began working for a bike shop, trading in his gear for a more suitable racing bike.

Jacobs raced in the collegiate circuit at Northeastern, falling in the middle of the pack against the rest of his competition.

"I got to go to nationals and came in 81 out of 150 riders and I remember one kid, Adam Craig, who was actually just at the Olympics this year, and he was just lapping the field and absolutely dominating," Jacobs says. "I remember thinking to myself some day I think I could do that-I just need to train and have the financial wherewithal to fund it."

After graduating from Northeastern in 2005, Jacobs said he took some time off from racing to focus on work, though still remaining in shape. With a B.A. in economics and a minor in East Asian studies, Jacobs found himself in Guangzhou, China, working in international trade for a local Chinese sourcing and manufacturing company. Jacobs had previously spent a semester in Guangzhou at Sun Yat Sen (Zhongshan) University studying Mandarin, and currently continues to work remotely for the same company.

From there, Jacobs said he was already targeting The Fletcher School as an ideal grad school program, due to flexibility and a diverse student body. Not having planned to go to grad school quite yet, fate again found itself in the picture.

"The fall of 2006 my father was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, and at that point I wasn't planning to go to grad school just yet, but I knew he would have wanted to see it happen, so I applied and put everything into that application and fortunately got accepted."

Halfway through his career at The Fletcher School, where he has been focusing on Pacific-Asian affairs and international business and economics, the 26-year-old says his current priority is to take advantage of his ability to ride while he can.

"I am at the point age-wise where I really should be peaking in my career," Jacobs says. "If I am good, I will do it for as long as I can. This is something to do for a period while one is young and able and it is one of a number of things I would like to do with my life. Certainly when my legs have had it and I'm an old man I will want to be doing something equally as interesting and will finish what I started here."

As "the new guy" on the national pro circuit, Jacobs says he is looking forward to spending the next year proving himself to his competitors.

Profile by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications.

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