The third time – and third sport – proved to be the charm for Canadian track cyclist Georgia Simmerling as she and her teammates claimed bronze in the women’s 4-kilometer team pursuit at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on Saturday.
The Canadian foursome of Simmerling, Allison Beveridge, Kirsti Lay, and Jasmin Glaesser out-dueled New Zealand in the velodrome, finishing with a time of 4:14.627 seconds, nearly four seconds ahead of their Kiwi rivals. Great Britain took the gold with a world record time of 4:10.236 seconds, and the United States claimed silver with a time of 4:12.454 seconds.
If you aren’t a cycling fan yet Simmerling’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because she’s been gracing World Cup races in both alpine and ski cross disciplines since 2008.
The 27-year-old native of West Vancouver, B.C., began her Olympic career back in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Games, where she was a member of Canada’s alpine team competing in the super-G. After Vancouver, Simmerling made the switch to focus on ski cross, rising through the international ranks before once again representing Canada at the 2014 Sochi Games in her second sport. After shattering her wrist in January of 2015, she took up cycling as more than just a cross-training activity to cope with having to spend time off snow.
Simmerling’s Rio participation makes her the first Canadian ever to compete in three different sports at three separate Olympics. Prior to her bronze-medal performance, Simmerling’s previous Olympic best was 14th in the Sochi ski cross.
All three of Simmerling’s teammates, in fact, developed from non-cycling backgrounds as Beveridge is a former swimmer, Lay a speed skater, and Glaesser a runner. Simmerling was also part of a Canadian pursuit team that took home a silver medal at last year’s UCI World Championships.
Simmerling explained to Canada’s Sportsnet that flying around a track on a bike and zooming down a snow-covered mountain are two starkly different experiences.
“You go to very, very dark places cycling on the track. It’s just pain,” she said. “It gets progressively worse and then you go to a place where you can’t feel anything. But it’s the most rewarding thing ever because when you get off the track you’re just so proud of yourself for doing what you did.”
Simmerling now looks forward to transitioning back to ski cross, as she will return to snow next month with the Canadian team and aim for her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.