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Friday, January 22, 2016

Kate O'Brien Shining Bright Again!

To start off we wanted to share with you this Post-Pan Am's interview with Kate and Team Sprint partner Monique Sullivan. It's a great video that speaks to Kate's arrival to the sport of Track Cycling, and the arrival of the Canadian Women's track program in general. 

The last update we received from Kate was right after her awesome showing at the World Cup a few weeks prior to the Holidays. Check out that post here: Kate O'Brien's Road to Rio. Now it's a new year, an Olympic one at that, and she's got her sights set on some big goals that we think she's right on track to achieving.

She just competed in the final World Cup in Hong Kong this past weekend. A great performance here could secure them a spot at the Olympics for Team Sprint - but their main goal was to get ahead of Columbia to set them up for a great run to Rio. Post race we received an awesome update from Kate. Read below:

"Coming into this competition, Team Sprint was nearly overtaking Colombia for the spot for Rio 2016. It put us in an interesting position- far enough that we needed to have a solid ride, but close enough that it was very attainable. Bearing this in mind, we felt a fair amount of pressure. As I said, regardless of how it had turned out we still would have World Champs in March, but we really wanted to have a good race not only to FINALLY be ahead in the rankings, but also for our own independent goals. Coming off of our fifth place finish in New Zealand, we were hoping to get to the medal rounds and, being a slightly lighter World Cup, this seemed like a pretty good opportunity. Cutting to the chase: The race, in two easy steps, went like this:

- Katie has a terrible start, getting hung up in the gate and nearly falling over right off the bat.
- We finish fourth, well ahead of Colombia and putting us into the medal rounds the next night. Whoda thunk it?

Yep. We finally did it. Overtook Colombia, by a reasonable margin at that. Plus, medal rounds for Team Sprint as a bonus. We were pitted against Spain, a country we had beaten in New Zealand, albeit narrowly. I really felt like we could do it, especially if I could clean up my start a bit. Interestingly however, the format had changed this season; Team Sprint finals were in the evening the next night, following a day of Individual Sprints. It was kind of funny- we had never made it to the Team Sprint finals before, so had never had to worry about conserving energy throughout the Individual Sprint day. It's a pretty good "bad" position in which we could be.

We awoke early for qualification for the Individual Sprints the next day. I qualified tenth, my best in World Cup competition. With the way that qualification worked, I was pitted against Monique, the very person I would be fighting for bronze WITH that same evening. As is the case in sport, one of us came out on top and it just happened to be me. I advanced to the next rounds while Monique went back to the hotel and got some well- deserved rest for the Team Sprint finals that evening. Long story slightly shorter, I ended up tenth. As much as I would have liked to do better, it was my best World Cup result to date, so I am hoping that there is more to come.

Back to Team Sprint: We fought a noble battle against Spain in the finals, but ended up sticking with fourth- so close! Admittedly we were pretty disappointed; in this strange world of sprint cycling, time trials are the most controllable event. It's tough when you're just outmatched. That said, it's kind of nice as we still have a lot of room to grow leading to World Championships and (hopefully) the Olympic Games. While we haven't solidified our spot for Rio just yet, in a span of four months we went from nearly shutting down Team Sprint altogether to being continental leaders in the race to Rio and finishing third in the overall World Cup rankings (sort of a weird twist but we'll take it ;)). You feel a bit of everything- empathy for the other teams, happiness for yourself and trepidation with a sprinkling of excitement for what's to come. The task now is to not lose focus; we're not out of the woods yet and frankly, I kind of hope that we never will be. I realised that when I stop feeling that I need to strive for something then it's probably time for me to move on. With that, I will say that I am going to try to keep working to be the best I can be, wherever that lands us in the world rankings; we have come a way, but we still have so much more to do."