Team Canada fielded two young riders with veteran Tara Whitten in the women's team pursuit, and their bronze medal performance was a top effort for a team which made its way to the 2012 Olympic Games in London with only a fraction of the support that the gold medal team from Great Britain enjoyed. The team's coach Tanya Dubnicoff was thrilled to earn a medal, and optimistic about Canada's future in the newest Olympic events.
"We have just done such a great job on such a small budget," Dubnicoff said. Every time we hear rumours on the GB budget and what they have accomplished and it's always: there's no limits ... but this is just a start for us on the small budget we have."
The trio of Tara Whitten (32), Jasmin Glaesser (20) and Gillian Carleton (22) qualified fourth fastest, but faced the onslaught of the British world record setters in the first round.
Dubnicoff said that going up against the world's top team pushed her riders to perform. "If we're going to compete against somebody I want someone that's going to be the best that they can, because that's just going to make us ride better. It's great for women in sport and great for women in cycling. There's a forerunner and we have to chase them and that's a good thing."
In that round, Canada's time was the fourth fastest, which put them in the bronze medal final against Australia. The Australians were ahead after the first 1000 meters, but then Canada picked up the pace, doing the second fastest middle kilometer of the final to get barely past the Australians. In the last kilometer, they were able to extend their lead another two tenths of a second to secure the bronze.
"It really feels amazing," said Whitten on Saturday. "Yesterday we were a little bit disappointed in our ride, and especially being so close to second and third. We had to kind of regroup overnight, changed the lap orders up a bit. I'm really proud of how the team came together today. It was close the whole way. We were just fighting. It's an amazing feeling to have done it."
Carleton credited Whitten for helping to usher her and Glaesser through their first full season of top level racing, and to bring them to an Olympic medal so quickly.
"Jasmin and I, this is our first season of international racing, but it's just a testament of the strength of this team definitely to have someone like Tara to be able to lead us and motivate us and being able to train with her and compete with her is such an honour really. I think she's a huge part of getting us here in addition to all the coaches and all the staff."
Their top time, a 3:17.415, set in the round against Great Britain, was a new record for Canada, which pleased Glaesser.
"It was fantastic to set a new Canadian record in our first ride today. I think we were a little bit disappointed with our time yesterday and seeing what the other teams were capable of, but we didn't let that bring down our focus and we knew we could do better. I think we showed that today so we can all be really happy with our ride."
Dubnicoff was proud of her riders for continuing to push through three rounds. "The way the girls rode all the way through competition is a testament to them. The format that is written for the team pursuit competition just shows you that it's not over till it's over. Even though we may have not had a fully capable ride the first round we regrouped and really had a solid ride earlier today and then accomplished it by winning bronze in the final."
Looking ahead, Dubnicoff hopes that Canada can come through and create a dedicated facility for the track cyclists to develop so that they can improve upon their inspired performances in London.
"Look at what we have done with the men's Omnium and the women's Omnium. It's unfortunate we have only one male sprint athlete here, but Monique Sullivan has done such a great job here. That shows you the capability of our programme in such a short time and so we really need a facility in Canada and to target other athletes from other sports."