Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) was named earlier this week as one of four Canadian mountain bikers heading to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Having made a rapid rise through the elite ranks after moving up from the U23 ranks, the 24-year-old was overjoyed at the news.
A four-time Canadian U23 National Champion from 2007-2010, Batty enjoyed immediate success on the World Cup elite scene, finishing eighth overall in her rookie season in 2011. Earlier this season, she made her first World Cup podium in Pietermaritzburg, South African with a second place.
Batty beat Marie-Helen Premont (Rocky Mountain) for the second Olympic team spot after world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) had pretty much locked up the first. It's been a long road, but Batty is now one of Canada's star mountain bikers herself.
"One time Chrissy Redden acknowledged me at the end of a race. I was maybe 13, and from then on, I always looked up to her," said Batty. "Marie Helen Premont is another woman I've always looked up to. Eight years ago I started coming here to this World Cup [in Mont-Sainte-Anne], and she was racing and fans were cheering her on."
"Early in my career, it was hard," said Batty upon looking back. "I went from racing out of the back of our family van from weekend to weekend and then in 2009, I signed with my first pro team. That was a really big challenge. I went from having not much to everything and the added pressure at the age of 21 was a lot to take on. It was too much at the time - I crumbled."
Batty noted that being patient is one of the hardest and most difficult things to do as an athlete.
She was initially inspired to race by her brothers and wanting to stay social at the mountain bike events. Eventually all those events led to me just craving to race. I rode with my family for so long that it wasn't a hard transition but something I had to do, I wanted to so bad."
Batty is part of a larger trend of Canadians getting better and better at cycling. "The rise of cycling has been fueled with great motivators and inspirations along the way," she said. "People like Steve Bauer, Curt Harnett, Lori Ann Muenzer, Chrissy Redden and of course Clara Hughes. I think successful athletes breed other successful athletes. That's why I think it's still important to show up to the local races, this way kids can think that I am no different and just as much normal as they are. It makes the dream look realistic and achievable!"
Batty goes to London wanting to do the best she can. "I don't think a medal is likely, but it is possible. I feel like a good result is really possible in London. The track resembles a lot of the World Cup tracks that suit my style of riding: Offenburg Germany, South Africa and Dalby Forest, UK. These are all high speed tracks where some of my natural strengths as a mountain biker shine. I am going to London to perform, a podium performance would be realistic if everything can come together."
Batty credits her success in part to having her fiance Adam Morka accompany her to all the major races. "I'm fortunate to have my fiance on the same schedule as me. I can only do this because he helps me. All the travel is one of the biggest challenges I face."
"With having the four World Cup qualifiers this spring, and starting one month earlier, my focus was shifted earlier. We had to come into this season not with the idea of ramping up to use races to gain fitness but had to come into South Africa with podiums in mind. I had to prove to the committee and the public that I am in contention for podium spots. Having to be so fit early in the year is tiring. It's exhausting at times. Usually as long as Adam is with me, he keeps me centered and balanced. He helps me relax after crazy travels and interviews."
No matter what the outcome on August 11, Batty is proud to represent Canada in London. "Words can't describe the emotion. Even when I was little and to this day, I have always had a deep respect and understanding for patriotism. I am so proud to be a Canadian and to be able to represent that on an international stage like the Olympics just makes me even more proud and patriotic then ever. I am so excited!"
For the young Batty, this could be the first of several Olympic Games. "It feels like just yesterday that the 2012 Olympics were four years away. I'd like to attend three Olympics for our country. I go into this Olympic Games with the drive to perform and to medal at these games."
On the big day in London, Batty will be looking forward to enjoy a special opportunity. "Moments are something nobody can take away from you. Moments shape us and who we are. One of my best moments on the bike was this past March in South Africa when I was second. It wasn't so much the result, but the feelings I had on the bike that day. I loved the course so much, I loved my bike, it felt like I was just playing and having fun."
Editorial assistance provided by Adam Morka.