First time Olympian looks forward to Rio 2016

First time Olympian looks forward to Rio 2016
Ramsden competed in the women’s individual time trial, placing 19th, and the women’s road race, finishing 27th. She says some kind of activity for young athletes in the North is in the works, but that nothing is official yet.Photo: Jonathan Devich.

Denise Ramsden, 21, was born in Hay River, NWT and grew up in Yellowknife. She competed in the women’s individual time trial and women’s road race in London and has been running around Canada since getting home three weeks ago, visiting her boyfriend’s family in Ontario and trying to wrap her head around going back to her biology degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Northern Journal: What was it like in London?

Denise Ramsden: It was pretty exciting. I’ve done Canada Games, Pan Am Games, but the Olympics were definitely a whole other level. The atmosphere was really good. We raced pretty early, so we didn’t get to experience the opening ceremonies or some of the other stuff that might have got us more excited, but we got to go out and see some events after and it was all around pretty exciting.

NJ: What was your personal sporting experience at the Olympics?

DR: It was good experience and now I know what it’s all about, so hopefully I can learn and develop from there. For road race, there were three of us and I was definitely the one who was supposed to be there helping the other two. I mean, I was on a team with Clara Hughes, who definitely took the pressure and the media attention and everything. For myself I wanted to do well, and obviously the Olympics are harder than any other event. I don’t think I did too bad.

NJ: Are you planning to compete in Rio?

DR: Yeah, I definitely am. I’m still young in terms of these things. I guess no one knows what can happen in four years, but I’d really like to go.

NJ: How do you balance training and competing with university?

DR: I took a year off school, so now I have to get back to that. It’s a good distraction, a bit of mental stimulus that stops you from just lying in bed all day, then training and lying in bed again. I think that if you’re in a sport that you plan to stay in for a long time, you need something else to stay sane.

NJ: How has coming from the North affected how you approach your sport?

DR: We did live in Kingston, Ontario for a while and I don’t think I would have gotten into cycling per se if we hadn’t lived there.

I feel fortunate coming from the North because I already had such an active lifestyle. I think I started cross-country skiing when I was two and speed skating at three. I speed skated for 12 years before I started cycling and that let me start at an earlier age than I would have otherwise. I think up North, it’s like, what else are you going to do in the winter? You may as well get outdoors and do something fun.

I also think despite not having that many people or that many athletes, the North has a really good support system for the athletes. There are other Olympians who aren’t going to get as much recognition or support, because if you’re from Ontario or something, you’re one of many. Coming from Yellowknife, you are someone. Financially, we’re better off that way too.

NJ: How are you involved with the next generation in cycling?

DR: I started working with Fast and Female this year, I ran events at one of the only international races we have in Gatineau, Quebec this year with some of the other girls on the national team. Between our races we did activities with younger girls, and that was pretty cool. I’m hoping that sometime this fall I can get back up to Yellowknife and get something organized there, but it’s still in the works.

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