Rebecca Twigg, who’s one of the greatest female cyclists in history, is now homeless and living on the streets of Seattle. The tragic irony of this story lies in the fact that what made her a great cyclist in the 1980s inevitably made her homeless in the 2010s. In a sense. Rebecca Twigg has always been homeless, ever since her mother kicked her out of the house at age 16. Riding a bike was the one place she felt centered, where she belonged. Now she’s lost that.
Thanks to Jeff Bezos, Seattle is now a hypergentrified city. I lived on an off in the University District in the 1990s. I was an alienated misfit working low paid menial jobs like Alaskan fish gutter and Starbucks barista. Back then, however, while it was already expensive to buy a house, it was easy to rent a cheap apartment in one of the more marginal areas of the city. Had the Seattle of the 1990s been the Seattle of the 2010s, I probably would have been living on the streets just like Rebecca Twigg.
The Seattle-raised athlete went on to become one of the most famous American cyclists in the ’80s and ’90s, winning six world championships and medaling in two Olympics. She appeared on cycling magazine covers, in sponsor ads and in features in Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.
But then, in 1996, she left the team abruptly during the Olympics and the next year, retired from cycling. She re-entered the workforce. It didn’t work out.
“Once you’ve done something that feels like you’re born to do it, it’s hard to find anything that’s that good of a fit,” Twigg says today. “Anything else that feels that way.”