Just a couple of months ago, when I was recovering from COVID-19, I didn’t believe that I had any chance at qualifying for the Olympics, nor did I think I was going to ever recover. As a professional athlete, I am quick to go to the worst possible outcome if things are not evidently improving. Through my recovery from COVID, I struggled most days, and the pressure of selections weighed heavily on me. When I finally started to see improvements and have ‘good’ days on the bike, I then began to worry if it was too little too late. I didn’t have any breakout moments until about two weeks before selections.
In cycling, there is not a trials race to qualify for the Olympics. It is all based on how a board of people involved in the sport of cycling across all disciplines sees the data presented to them. It depends on who raced when and with who, who were at those races, were there outside factors that weighed into the results, etc. It is a stressful process for everyone involved—the board and athletes.
Everyone on the Long Team was told that we would be notified on June 1st about the final selection. It was a call that would make my childhood dreams come true and validate all my commitment to achieving my goal, or it would break my heart and make me move on from this program for a couple of years. I have experienced a lot of stress in my life, but the stress and anxiety I felt the week before this call is something I don’t want to experience again. When you dedicate so much time and sacrifice so much to achieve one goal, everything else seems to not matter. I could still sleep and train during this week, but every thought I had was about when I would receive the call.
Surprisingly, I had a fantastic week of training the week of selections: I felt good on the bike, my power numbers were good, and track efforts went well. Every day that went well this week made me think about the chance of not being selected because it was too late. I was worried that everything was shattered when I had COVID.
Well, the only thing I could do was try to distract myself until June 1st. It worked pretty well, but I can’t say it was flaw proof.
The night before the call, I wrote a letter to myself with all the reasons why it would be okay if I did not get selected. It was one of the most comforting things to me, and I was able to go to sleep knowing that everything would be fine no matter the outcome.
June 1st: I wish I could have slept in, but I had to get up and ride in the morning before my gym session. My phone was fully charged, and I made sure my volume was all the way up about twenty times. I rode with my teammate Emma White for the first hour of my ride before splitting off because she had some intervals to do, and I only had an easy endurance ride. Probably no more than five minutes after separating, I got the call.
I slammed on my brakes, moved over to the side of the road, and sat down on a rock before answering. The National Team coach, Gary Sutton, and Jeff Pierce were the voices who greeted me. The tones were monotone and emotionless, basically. It was so casual with, “Hello, how are you doing? Where are you? Are you alone or with someone?” I instantly thought I was not selected. It felt like an eternity before Jeff Pierce said, “We told you we were going to call you on the 1st, so here we are. I am pleased to congratulate you that the selection board has selected you to go to the Olympics.” I remember not breathing for the first half of it until I heard, ‘congratulations.’ I started silently crying instantly and thanked them and made it through the end of the call without making any crying noise, but as soon as I hung up, I started sobbing. The relief and happiness I experienced at that moment is something I will never forget. I waited until Emma had finished her first effort before giving her a big hug and crying with her. I barely made it through my ride; I was happy crying the whole time.
The joy and pride I feel in knowing that all the hard work paid off and that I will have the honour and privilege to represent Team USA at the Olympics is still breathtaking.
Until next time,