Fastest American Cyclist Works in Lebec

  • Lebec firefighter James &quotJimmie" Watkins at the London 2012 Olympics, making the best American showing in 12 years in the sprint cycling events.

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    Lebec firefighter James "Jimmie" Watkins at the London 2012 Olympics, making the best American showing in 12 years in the sprint cycling events.

  • The crew from Kern County Fire Department Station 55,with Olympic cyclist Jimmy Watkins (third from right). His co-workers helped make it possible for Watkins to compete in the London 2012 event. At far right, beaming proudly, is Kern County’s Fire Chief Brian Marshall [Gunnar Kuepper photos]

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    The crew from Kern County Fire Department Station 55,with Olympic cyclist Jimmy Watkins (third from right). His co-workers helped make it possible for Watkins to compete in the London 2012 event. At far right, beaming proudly, is Kern County’s Fire Chief Brian Marshall [Gunnar Kuepper photos]

Lebec’s Olympic Firefighter

By The Mountain Enterprise staff

Lebec firefighter James “Jimmy” Watkins, 29 made America’s best showing in 12 years in the men’s Olympic sprint cycling events on August 4-5. He took sixth place at the London 2012 Olympics for the premier event of the worldwide cycling competitions. Watkins has worked with Kern County Fire Department’s Station 55 in Lebec for two and a half years.

At a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 21 in Lebec, Watkins told The Mountain Enterprise that his life as a husband, father and a fireman is “much more fulfilling” than the life of a professional athlete chasing endorsement deals could ever be.

International media have reported he excites fans in the cycling world—as well as among the larger arena of Olympic watchers—because Watkins brings the spirit of the enthusiastic amateur athlete back to the Olympic games. Unlike most world-class athletes today, Watkins maintained a full-time job while training for the games. The 6-foot-1- inch athlete said if he had focused his life only on his Olympic aspirations, he would not be able to have a family today.

He “is not jealous of the professional racers he is facing in London… If he were a full-time cyclist, he couldn’t raise his two-year-old daughter or be at home with his wife,” he told an Associated Press reporter. To make it possible to go to England to compete, Watkins says he saved up vacation days, and firefighters at the Lebec Tejon Station (formerly known as Mettler) joined together to take turns to cover his shifts. “All the support from the guys and from Kern County Fire Department has been amazing,” he said at the press conference.

Asked what he thought he might be doing in Jimmy Watkins in London Lebec’s Olympic Firefighter Fastest American Cyclist Works in Lebec Continued on page 13 Quinn Rooney/Getty Images photo 2016 and whether he will be training for the next Olympics, Watkins just said, “I can’t tell you. I don’t know right now.”

Watkins says he was happy to return to work from London two weeks ago, after coming closer to the winner’s circle in his sport than any previous U.S. velodrome cyclist since the year 2000 Olympic games.

This is part of the August 24, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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