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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kate O'Brien - From Bobsled to Cycling

Kate O'Brien has braved the weather - and by that I mean she was a former bobsled athlete; sliding down a track a wickedly fast speeds, occasionally ricocheting off ice walls in a race to the finish. So what made her switch her focus to cycling - another high-intensity, high-speed sport that is taken indoors to a velodrome.

"For the past six years I have been competing as a brakeman on the Canadian Bobsleigh Program. Unfortunately, I was sidelined leading into the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games due to injury. Following this disappointment, I found myself unsure of where to go. I dabbled with learning to drive bobsleighs, deciding that this would be my new path. Around that same time, a track cycling talent ID camp came through Calgary. After some egging on by friends, I decided I'd try my hand (or legs) and attend the camp. Shockingly, I guess my numbers were good and I found myself being invited into the new world of track cycling. I was so honoured. . . and terrified at the same time!

Last season (2014/ 2015), the bobsleigh and cycling federations came to an agreement that I could split time on both World Cup circuits. It was an outstanding experience. I was able to represent Canada in two separate sports in the same competitive season. I flew back and forth from cycling to bobsleigh, bikes in tow; the season finale was getting to compete in Track World Championships in France and then fly to Germany for Bobsleigh World Championships the next day.

I am massively grateful for the opportunity to have such an excellent experience, wearing the maple leaf in a summer and winter sport simultaneously. This said, in March of 2015, following Bobsleigh Worlds, I made the decision to hang up my bob spikes for now and focus on being as fast on the track as I can be. I felt that this was important, especially leading into the all important Olympic season. While this is a big change, I have felt so much support from both the bobsleigh and cycling communities in making this decision. Cycling has welcomed me with open arms and everyone I have met through bobsleigh have sent me nothing but messages of kindness and well wishes. I never thought I would represent my country in one sport, let alone two. It is a tremendous honour and privilege. I am extremely excited to see what's to come!"

Even with coming to terms with a new sport Kate has seen great success on the track. Recently she competed at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, ON and came away with a Gold and a Silver medal. 

"Not sure if you heard the news, but Cycling Canada did quite well as whole. The track side in particular swept the medals- every member of the program received a medal of some colour, so it was great. On the sprint side, our men won the team sprint. One of our boys, in addition to the team sprint, also won the match sprint and received a bronze in the keirin. On the women's side, Monique and I won the team sprint and set a Pan American record- woo hoo! Monique competed in the keirin as we only have one spot for that event- she also won gold in that. The final days of competition for us was the match sprints. Monique and I qualified first and second, only 35 hundredths apart. As fate would have it, Monique and I made it to the gold medal final together. It was a strange position in which to be; we are extremely good friends and we had just celebrated a win and record together two days before. Now we had to compete against each other. I really tried to have fun with it though- it was a win win really- Canada was guaranteed the top two steps of the podium. Unfortunately, I found myself in the silver medal position, but I was so happy for Monique. Of course I wanted to win, but it was more than I would have thought- hopefully more to come as I learn more and more!"

Next up on the schedule for Kate and the Canadian Cycling team is a few weeks of training before they head off to Chile for the Pan American Championships. 

We are sending you good luck wishes and congratulations on such a successful start to your track cycling career! We are so thrilled to be fuelling you and are excited to follow your progress throughout the remainder of your cycling days!