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  Ashlee Ankudinoff - My Rio Olympic Games Experience  
  September 22nd 2016 By Ashlee Ankudinoff  
  The build up to an Olympics I thought would be full of hype, hard training days and anxiousness. With this being my first Olympics I didn't really know what to expect, as I had never represented Australia at the pinnacle of my sport. I did however know that I had the best teammates and support staff around me to ensure I had a great experience regardless of the result.

On the 5th of July the women's track endurance and sprint squad travelled to LA for our Olympic staging camp. We were based in Manhattan Beach a lovely area in So Cal (South California) about 1km away from the beach. We decided to head to LA as the track was very similar to that of Rio - that being long straights and tight bends. We find that every track is a little bit different and not having a track in Australia that was like this we thought it was a perfect opportunity to go to LA.

It was also similar time zone to Rio and that travel time from LA to Rio was definitely less than flying from Aus to Rio. Our camp in LA was really great, we were treated to some beautiful weather and no word of a lie we had blue sky, temperatures above 25 degrees every single day. The morale in the group was very high and training was going well with PBs not only on the track but in the gym as well. By the end of camp we were all in a great headspace ready for the final phase.

On the 3rd of August we were off to the Olympic Games, after years of hard work it was now time to put the final pieces together and go after that gold medal we'd all be striving/dreaming for. When we were walking through Houston airport to board our flight down to Rio, we were stopped by people asking to have a picture with us. It was this moment that I took a step back and said "wow I am off to the biggest sporting spectacle in the world" millions of people tune in to watch the Olympics worldwide and I was about to represent my country in this spectacle. After an overnight flight to Rio we had a good chance to rest before hitting the ground running and had our first day at the Olympics.

It felt very surreal standing at the entrance gate into the village, collecting my accreditation and can't forget to mention a key card to swipe at the numerous fridges with water and soft drink that was available throughout the village. We were given our keys to our new home for the next couple of weeks. My roomie was fellow debutant Georgia Baker, we were like kids in a candy store when opening all of our suitcases full of clothes. We were overwhelmed by all the Adidas and Sportscraft clothes we received and not to mention our vegemite tube with our names on it.

After a couple of days being in the village we had settled in nicely. Despite all the media attention that the village was getting back home in Australia we were finding our room pretty good. I think it was a good thing we came to the village later as they ironed out all the cracks before we arrived. There were a few things we had to adapt too whilst living in Rio… putting toilet paper in the bin was a hard habit to break as we were so used to just dropping it down the toilet. However this was a must or else we would end up with a blocked toilet. The use of bottled water for brushing teeth was also a necessity, as we didn't want to get sick. We did have cold showers for first few days only to have it fixed by maintenance people. Funny how if you plug things into where they are meant to go they work!? Go figure. This was the case for our hot water system.

Training was going great as a team and every day on the track we were confident that we could do something special come race day on the 11th. Sunday 7th of August was the turning point of this whole Olympic campaign it was also the start of our race pace efforts. We began the session on the Le Monds for warm up. It began to feel like competition was just around the corner, and it was. The first effort was a standing 10lapper and I was off the back for this effort. Things were looking good in the effort and we were on schedule until the unthinkable happened. We clipped wheels and all but Nettie crashed heavily. I was last to fall as I was sitting just off the back and tried to avoid it but couldn't. I hit the track hard and slid a fair distance.

I laid there for a moment and everything was silent for a moment until I was back with it and heard Mel yelling out in a fair bit of pain. It sent chills through me as I lay there on my side not being able to lift my body up off the ground knowing that my 3 teammates were lying injured as well. I knew straight away I had done something to my shoulder and was hoping I didn't break my collarbone. We all got up and hobbled back to the pits except Mel who was being stretchered off into an ambulance where she was taken to hospital for x-rays on her hip.

Amy and G had nothing broken just very bruised parts of the body, I had done my AC joint and bruised my sternum and ribs and thankfully for Mel she had broken nothing but had a large haematoma on the left hip and struggled to put weight down. She hobbled with crutches back into the room where we all gave her a big hug and assured her that everything was going to be ok. It was not the best timing but we had 4 days til race day and this was the time where we had to do the one percenters right more than ever.

The next day we were sat down by Macca and Sutto and Macca said we were to go back out on the track and show that we were not down and out but still ready to give it our all come race day. This wasn't just any race it was the Olympic Games and we certainly weren't going to throw in the towel and accept defeat. We were battered and sore but it was good to be back on the track doing what we do best. Aussies are known for their strength and I think we certainly showed that.

Race day came quick and I was not lining up for the first qualifying round. We were all in good spirits before the race and ready to have a great ride. The girls had a great ride and qualified third behind Great Britain and the Americans with Canada finishing fourth. This meant our next round was up against America who had a six second buffer over us. We had never been so happy to qualify in third, after all that had happened in the lead up to this day and for us to manage third was great.

A day between each of the qualifying rounds meant that we had another day for us to recover that bit more from Sunday's crash. We turned up on Saturday mid morning ready to ride our own race and realistically aim for that bronze medal ride off. Again I was not riding in this round but was 100% behind the girls to put together a great ride. Unfortunately things didn't go to plan and we were pushed down to fifth after the NZ girls who were fifth in the first round out qualified us.

We were now no longer in the hunt for a medal. We were all absolutely shattered. The dream of winning a medal was out of the question now. But we had to regroup and finish off strongly to claim that fifth place. We had a couple of hours to chill at the village before heading back out to the track for the final. Sutto came up to me and said that I would be given the opportunity to ride the last round and I was excited to say the least. I was about to live my childhood dream of representing my country at an Olympic Games and also having my whole family in the crowd cheering me on. Our final place was fifth, not the result we were hoping for but we did our best with having a big crash days out from this competition.

What made this so special to be apart of an amazing team was we all went home after racing and sat down and spoke together about how proud we were of each other and the special bond we had made with each other. We were like sisters and we got through all the hard times together because we had each others backs and were willing to fight and push ourselves to breaking point for each other. We were able to reflect on our result and time leading up to the games but after that night we were to leave it.

Tomorrow was a new day, the sun was shining and we were all still able to smile and move on. The rest of my time at the Olympics was really enjoyable, I made so many new friends and got to experience being a spectator and watch different sports at an Olympic Games.

It was one heck of a journey I travelled and I was on an emotional and physical roller coaster for months leading up to the games. I know I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of my teammates - Amy, Georgia, Mel and Nettie, our coaches Gary Sutton and Ian McKenzie all the support staff from Cycling Australia and certainly my family and friends back home. It is something I truly will never forget.
 © 2016