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  Georgia Simmerling selected for third Olympics in third sport as part of Canadian track team for Rio  
  June 30th 2016  
   Photo: Supplied - Left to right: Kirsti Giroux, Georgia Simmerling, Jasmin Glaesser, Allison Beveridge & Laura Brown  
  Georgia Simmerling has represented Canada at two Olympic Games in two different sports. Vancouver 2010 in Alpine skiing and Sochi four years later in Ski Cross. With Thursdays announcement of the Canadian Cycling Team for the Rio Olympic Games, the 27 year old can now add a third Olympic Games in a third sport to the list. Rio 2016 in cycling.

Since first riding on the track just two years ago Simmerling has fallen in love with the sport that will take her to her third Games. A national title, World Cup gold and World Championship silver have all followed in the past year and Canada heads to Rio as a strong medal contender having claimed bronze in London in 2012.

Initially told there was no chance of making the team, Simmerling continued undeterred knowing that she had a plan post the 2018 Winter Olympics to come back. With just over a month to the Games, Simmerling is surprised not only with what she has achieved but where she is at on the bike. While realising the hard work towards an Olympic medal is still ahead.

When you first approached Cycling Canada about trying to make the team pursuit team for Rio what was their reaction?

While I was training on my own, I had a local coach help assist me in my training. He said he would talk to the Women's Track Endurance coach Craig Griffin, on the phone. I'll always remember that call when my mentor at the time called me to tell me he had some bad news for me. He had spoken with Craig, and told me there was pretty much no chance of making the National Team. My heart plummeted. I had been training so hard, and for what? But the fighter in me wasn't going to hear just one no and stop everything. I asked my mentor if I could speak with the National Team coach directly. He said sure, give him a call. Although my current coach now, Craig Griffin, admired my ambition, I'm pretty sure he had an eyebrow raised in question with my goal of making his team (as I'm sure most coaches reactions of world class teams would be) and told me there was a very very slim chance of making the team.

What were your own expectations about how realistic did you think your chances were?

As the months went on and I learned more about the sport and how difficult it is, my expectations of myself lowered. I kept telling myself who cares if you don't make the team this go around. I was falling in love with the sport including the physical the mental strength required. I had a plan to get back into cycling after the 2018 Winter Olympics. I would be back.

You claimed gold in the team pursuit at the National Championships in October. Your first nationals what did it mean to stand on the top step of the podium?

I did win the team pursuit national title with my teammates Jasmin, Steph and Laura, but I wouldn't have been anywhere close to that podium if it weren't for those girls asking me to be on their team and represent the province of BC. That race was my first team pursuit ride ever. I remember telling Steph after the race, "You know how many Canadian Nationals I've raced in Alpine and Ski Cross and haven't won a national title? She laughed and replied saying, "Maybe you were in the wrong sport!"

After that result you joined the NextGen development team and that lead to an opportunity to train with the elite squad how did that go?

In hindsight, the NextGen camps kept me afloat! Craig and I now laugh about how eager I was to ride with the elite team, but I had to take the right steps. I needed to learn team pursuiting technique, the ins and outs of the sport before hopping into the big leagues. Cam, the NextGen coach taught me a lot. I would have been spit up and chewed out of the elite program if I hadn't done the two camps I did with the NextGen program.

You were then offered a full time position with the Canadian Track Endurance Team what did it mean to join the squad so quickly?

I was definitely not offered a full time position with the elite program right away. I was asked to join the elite women for one week, on a trial basis. I had five days on the track to show Craig that I had something I could potentially offer his program. That first week with the team was one of my toughest weeks. I was the outsider, every single movement on my bike, every single pedal stroke was being watched and critiqued. I tried to stay composed and kept telling myself I earned this opportunity, stay focused and learn as much as you can from these girls, try to do something better than you did the day before, every day.

Having come from being one of the top Ski Cross competitors how did it feel heading in to training with the elite women's endurance team as the new rider? Did it feel like you were a bit of a nobody trying to break in to an existing team?

I definitely felt like an outsider when I joined the team. This group of girls has worked so hard over the years to create a cohesive, positive team dynamic amongst themselves. I most definitely WAS the outsider. They didn't know me, and didn't want me there disrupting their team. If I put myself in their shoes, and think of someone joining my ski team who I didn't know, I would have felt the same way, like they were walking on my turf. It was really stressful. But as I got to know the girls and they got to know me over the next months, it felt the wrinkles seemed to flatten out without much real force from either of us.

Selected for the Hong Kong World Cup where you claimed gold and helped Canada seal the overall series win. Your first race on the international stage what did it mean to come away with the win? Did you take confidence from it?

It was a surreal moment when I saw that we had won. I had so much emotion running through me. 'Did that just happen?' My entire journey with this team has been filled with an incredible amount of mental challenges both external and internal. Taking in as much feedback from my coach and my teammates externally, and dealing with my internal dialogue has been the biggest challenge for me. The team was leading the overall standings heading into Hong Kong, so we raced in Hong Kong in the white skin suit, my first race with the team. I didn't feel right wearing it. I hadn't earned this, I thought. I had nothing to do with this team's success to this date. As the two days of racing went by and I contributed to the team winning in Hong Kong, I remember thinking, 'I think I can do this, I think I can be a contributing member to this squad'.

You were then selected for the World Championships what did it mean to represent Canada at the Track World Championships and what were your expectations?

I've said this a few times already speaking to people about the last year of my life: ignorance is bliss. From day one of joining this squad, and probably for a long time to come, I am so focused every day on learning and being a better bike rider, as we all are in our sport I guess. I was of course extremely excited to be named to the team to race at Worlds, but these big moments that I've had the opportunity to be apart of have been clouded a little by my intent focus on the ride. The pressure could have easily affected me, but the angst, the fear, never came to me in Hong Kong or Worlds. I have been exposed to pressure at big events for years now, having cameras in my face making me feel exposed and vulnerable. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel it entirely, but I use it to my advantage. I channel my focus, my adrenalin and nervousness into my performance. I've definitely had some emotional moments with my teammates and myself. Representing Canada, hearing my teammates' and my name over the loud speaker as the roaring, vibrating crowd came to a complete silence before we raced in the gold medal round, embracing my teammates as we finished to a silver medal knowing on that day, we gave it our all. I will cherish those experiences forever.

Photo: Supplied - Left to right: Kirsti Giroux, Georgia Simmerling, Jasmin Glaesser, Allison Beveridge & Laura Brown

How did it feel standing on the podium with a silver medal around your neck at your first World Championships?

We know we have what it takes to put a winning ride together at the Olympics. We were happy to be on the podium in London, especially considering the four of us that were on the line in London had ridden about five times together. We have a lot of work to do, we're all prepared to do that work. We know we can do some extraordinary things together.

Were you happy with your own and the team performance in London?

I was definitely proud of my own performance at Worlds. I like to use the expression "money in the bank". I put some big dollar bills in my bank at that event. What I mean when I say that is experience, racing in the line, racing with immense pressure on us, and I didn't crack! I think I kept my composure well, and focused my energy (I have a lot of it, all the time) into my job. I think it was another step in earning more trust in my teammates as well, and that means a lot to me.

After less than a year focusing on the team pursuit are you happy with the progress you have made and where do you think you are at?

I know I surprised a lot of people seeing where I am today in this sport. I surprised myself. This journey for me is once again a testament of will power I think. Setting your mind to something, and seeing it through. It's that simple to me. Of course if magnified, zoomed in into the process, it is not simply at all. But the overall take on what I have accomplished I hope is a motivation for people to believe in themselves, and see what they can achieve.

Having claimed gold at a World Cup and silver at the World Championships you have been announced in the Canadian team for the Rio Olympic Games. Your third Olympics in a third sport what does the selection mean to you?

I am thrilled to be announced to the Olympic Team. As excited as I am, I am extremely focused on my teams task at hand. We are training hard every day as a team, and I individually have a lot of work to do. The excitement will probably set in when we fly there!
 © 2016