Whilst the Tour de France takes center stage around the world, there’s another cycling story a little closer to home that’s starting to unfold.
Olivia Podmore has been working towards her first appearance on the world stage for the past couple of years and it hasn’t all been plain sailing for this 17 year-old, Year 12 Middleton Grange student. If you’ve only seen her in race mode, she omits an air of confidence and steely determination – but recently Olivia has had to deal with some set backs in her lead up to the Junior World Track Championships in Korea, which are less than a month away.
The annual Oceania Track Champs in November 2013 was to be Olivia’s debut in the silver fern, her first chance to represent her country. It was also to be her first test against some international competition and she relished the prospect of taking on the Aussies on a familiar Invercargill velodrome. Unfortunately this was not to be, the Under 19 Australian girls were no-shows and no reason was given. Olivia went on to win all of her events in convincing fashion with the blitzing finishes that we’ve seen time and time again – but the victories were not the ones she wanted.
One month later things started to go horribly pear-shaped. Her form disappeared and she struggled to pull any credible performances out of her hat of tricks. Initially it was thought to be a temporary glitch brought on by a bit of fatigue and the usual bugs that get around. But as the weeks went by and Olivia showed no improvement, we all watched in horror as she appeared to have no fight and was often unable to even stay in touch during racing.
The pressure to perform must have been immense, Olivia is Canterbury Track Cycling’s darling – as a region we all take immense pride in her success and love the thrill of that moment in a race when she kicks, it’s the moment when it appears as if everyone else has stopped pedalling.
Every time she raced she knew everyone was watching her, looking to see if today was the day we would see the return of the old Olivia. It’s tough enough to have to deal with the frustration, disappointment and distress of not being able to do what you always do - but having to face the questions and scrutiny of well-meaning supporters was hugely difficult for a 16 year-old girl with no answers to give.
She was supposed to be building towards Nationals in March with the hope of selection to represent New Zealand at the Junior World Championships... but it wasn’t looking good.
As if things couldn’t get worse, 3 weeks out from Nationals devastating news in Olivia’s family life shook her world and left her confused and angry. She considered not taking part in Nationals, the combination of no form and emotional turmoil seemed insurmountable problems.
However, the professionalism that belays her years saw her get on the plane bound for the new Avantidrome in Cambridge for the Under 19 and Elite National Track Cycling Champs.
No one could have predicted this would be her most successful Nationals to date. 5 Gold medals, winning every single event she entered, including all qualifying races and the non-medal 250m standing lap.
Olivia never flinched.
This is why she is a hero to many young riders, it’s why the very parochial Canterbury crowd will back this girl right to the end.
For anyone that’s looking for proof she’s got the goods, here’s a couple of clips - the first is at carnival in Cambridge about 3 weeks ago winning the Keirin final against the in-form Steph McKenzie (NZ’s top Elite female sprinter) and the second is from the South Island Secondary Schools Road Race Champs held last weekend.
In a couple of days Olivia heads to a 2-week boot-camp in Cambridge, before climbing aboard the big bird bound for Korea and her biggest challenge yet!
Gold, silver, bronze or last... we will be cheering for you Olivia!