Olga Zabelinskaya took home two bronze medals in the road cycling events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and it was something the Russian could never have imagined achieving.
"Two medals, of course, were something that I was dreaming about. It was a dream and I did not expect it," she said. "This is the greatest achievement in my career."
Zabelinskaya is not the best known female cyclist, although she's won a junior world time trial championship in 1997, a European title in the time trial as an under-23 rider in 2002, and a stage of the Tour de l'Aude in 2006. It is because she has twice taken years out of competition in order to give birth to her sons Bogdan and Vitaly that her palmares are not as complete as the other medalists here.
Even celebrating her achievement will be curtailed because of family life. "Tonight I am not going to celebrate because tomorrow morning I have to wake up early to fly home. Maybe I will have a party at home tomorrow."
The 32-year-old balances her family and her racing with the support of her husband, who takes care of the boys while she is away. "During the season, they always follow me. When I am training I train at home. I only go to race and go back, I need these days to rest."
She made her latest comeback with Safi Pasta in 2010 after four years away from the international scene. She moved in 2011 to the new RusVelo squad, which has given her more flexibility to design her season around her family life. "In the beginning of the season I choose which races I want to do, which are more comfortable for me and my family. My team lets me do this."
A little known fact, Zabelinskaya is the daughter of 1980 Olympic road race gold medalist Sergei Sukhoruchenkov, but she said that rather than encourage her to take up the sport, he felt more the opposite.
"We don't talk about it because he does not think cycling is for women."
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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