Posted by Editor on 01/10/03
Interview with Jim Fisher
Many of you will have heard by now that Canadian track cyclist Jim Fisher has announced his retirement. Jim was a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic team (Kilo) and the 2002 Commonwealth Games team (Kilo and Team Sprint). He has also represented Canada at Pan Am Games, World Cups and World Championships. As he stated in his retirement announcement (see Daily News, January 8/03), Jim is moving to accept other challenges, including starting training as a fire fighter with the Calgary fire department. I had a chance to talk with Jim on the telephone today to discuss his career and retirement.
CC - Your retirement announcement caught many by surprise, coming with less then a year and a half to the Olympics. Why retire now?
JF - It was a tough decision; I would have loved to go to another Olympics. But I have been involved in sport for a long time - 13 years as a speedskater and 6 years in cycling. A number of things contributed to my decision, both in my life and my career. Doug (Baron) and Tanya (Dubnicoff) have retired, so I lost long time training partners. While I am only 27, I probably peaked mentally and emotionally in 2000. Plus, I haven't set a personal best in a while.
Cycling is changing out here (Calgary) - there are lots of new faces, and I'd almost rather see the next generation in Athens.
I had said at the end of '99 to Chris (his wife) that I wanted to go to the Olympics before retiring, and we decided that I was going to stick around until 2004 and retire then. When I went in 2000 I did alot of thinking and decided to stay for Commonwealth Games; I had never done them and wanted to do that.
I had decided quite a bit before the (Commonwealth) Games, probably in March, and had told a few close people. I had started the recruitment process (for the fire department) almost a year ago and had gone through the testing and the interview, and found out just before the the Games that I had passed - everything fell together pretty well.
CC - So what about this new career?
JF - Well, it is a pretty long process, but I have been accepted as a probationary fire fighter and start January 27th. It is exciting - my life is growing in a different direction. It has been pretty intense, I have been working as a volunteer fire fighter for 25 hours a week, but now it is about to become full time.
CC - Take us through your cycling career.
JF - Well, my grandfather was actually a national team member. I started speed skating in Grade 2, and then in 89-90 I started cross-training in cycling. In '91 I won the Alberta school championship (road), but 1996 was the first year I committed to cycling, when I won a bronze in the sprint at the nationals and that winter was the first I decided to train full time for cycling. In '97 I made the national team.
I started as a sprinter, but mentally I didn't like it as much as the Kilo. I started training in the winter of '97 for the Kilo, but I broke my collarbone, which set me back a little. Doug (Baron) and I started training together in '98, and that was a breakthrough - we still train together. My first Kilo at an international level was in '99, at the Dallas World Cup, where I was 7th.
In '98 I was doing 1:06's, and missed the Commonwealth Games (Kuala Lumpur) to Doug. In '99 I was doing 1:05's and in 2000 I did a 1:03, and was doing 1:04's consistently.
CC - But you had an interesting season in 2000 - you weren't named to the Sydney team, and then at the last minute were added.
JF - The Olympics was at the very last minute, only 5 days before my event. What happened was that in '99 Doug won the Kilo and I was second at the nationals. We had done a CBC Olympic spot for Tanya two weeks before the nationals, where we were doing jumps for the camera, with me first, then Doug and then Tanya. My steel handlebars snapped - luckily I didn't take Doug and Tanya down! - but I broke some ribs and was pretty banged up and didn't qualify for Sydney through the Pan Ams, which we figured was our only chance.
In early 2000 I was having a really good year, setting Canadian track records, and a Columbia track record at the World Cup. We thought that we were out of the Olympics, so we were focussing on the Worlds, and I was hoping to go for a medal.
When I heard, I had been on holidays, hadn't been on a track bike for 2 weeks, then I got a call from Eric (Van den Eynde, national coach), giving me a heads-up that I could be going. I had just got back from a mountain bike ride, I was covered in dirt.... I sat by the telephone for 5 hours, waiting to hear back!
The CCA had known that it was a possibility, but not very likely, and they were waiting to get word. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) were trying to get more young riders in, and they had been given my name after Pan Ams as a prospect, so they added me.
When I got there (Sydney), I didn't have accreditation, and couldn't get on the track! I was staying in Woolangong and training on the road - I didn't get accreditation until the afternoon before my Kilo and moved into the (Athlete) Village then.
CC - So what was the Olympic experience like?
JF - Doug went to the '92 Olympics and missed the Opening Ceremonies, and told me that he would never miss it again, so he and I and Clara (Hughes) went to them and stood for like 7 hours. It was the most incredible experience that I would never want to have missed. After that I went and got a few hours sleep before I raced the next day. The Olympics were unbelievable. The people that I met there I stay in touch with now. It showed me that cycling is a social sport.
CC - What are the highlights you remember from your career?
JF - Of course the Olympics, but the Pan Ams in Winnipeg (1999) were really special. Winnipeg is my home town, and I can remember seeing high school friends in the stands at the track! I guess the other event is the 2000 Pan Am Cycling Championships, when I had all my friends competing with me - Doug, Tanya, Lars (Madsen), and everyone else. It was the one time when we all got to ride together.
The thing I want to remember, and that I want others to realize, is that it was all about competing, and competing hard. But, at the same time, to keep it in perspective. and never let it get in the way of having fun. It's cycling; it may be important to us when we are doing it, but it's just cycling and we should enjoy it.
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