Posted by Editoress on 08/1/20
On Wednesday, Cycling Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced the riders selected to represent Canada next year at the Tokyo Olympics in the Road and Track events. Mountain Bike and BMX (Racing and Freestyle) still have final qualification events to take place early next year. This will be the largest cycling team Canada has ever sent to the Olympic Games.
Kris Westwood is the Head of Performance Operations at Cycling Canada, and spoke to us about the team selection and the one year build up to the Games.
There's a few key points for us with this announcement. First, is that this is a partial announcement of what will be Canada's biggest ever cycling delegation, which is pretty exciting and speaks to the depth of our program. More importantly, it [speaks to] the breadth and our ability to expand our performance into the men's track endurance space, to bring on the track sprinters, and for the road athletes to continue competing at a super high level internationally.
As you know, Olympic qualification gets more difficult every cycle as more sports get added; it means places are taken away from other sports, and that has certainly been the case in cycling. The push for gender equality also means that each [country's] team gets smaller [for individual events]. So, it just gets harder every time to qualify, so just to be able to get over that hurdle is huge.
Announcing the road and track team one year out is a long time to lock in the squad.
The original intent had been to announce the road team back in December [2019, after the qualification period ended], so that was already going to be a pretty long lead time. What's really critical with the road teams is working with the athletes' professional teams in order to make sure that their season is appropriately blocked out to accommodate the Olympics and make sure that they are ready for peak performance at the right time. If you wait too long, the athlete could have a schedule that doesn't work at all for achieving the performances that they need.
For the track, we knew who the athletes were. With the delay, we needed to insure that the athletes would be able to commit to an additional year of training. You can't ask an athlete to commit to that and then say, 'well, maybe you will go'. We felt it was just better to name the teams for the spots that we have qualified already.
It's a little bit of a different situation in mountain bike and BMX, where the qualification period isn't over yet. We have to wait until we get those quotas confirmed by the UCI before we can name those squads.
Westwood also points out that for newer athletes to the team, the year delay may be beneficial.
Yes, absolutely, with Kelsey [Mitchell] and Lauriane [Genest], the two women sprinters, being the prime examples. They are so new to the sport that every training session, every race simulation that they do is a step forward for them. So this [delay] is almost ... I would never call it an ideal scenario, because it isn't, but it definitely is to their advantage.
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