Last Word

Hey Alex Har­vey, Let Me Know When You Get Tired of Wear­ing Span­dex in the Win­ter

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY CURT HAR­NETT

I full-time de­cided on to my quit cy­cling, hockey andto fo­cusit was a lit­tle less than two years later that I was stand­ing on the Olympic podium ac­cept­ing a sil­ver medal that I had earned that day in the Kilo­me­tre Time Trial.

was talk­ing to some­one the other day about tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in the sport world and was a asked how I got into cy­cling. I apol­o­gize to those read­ing this who have heard this story before.

Quite sim­ply, I was in­tro­duced to the con­cept of com­pet­i­tive cy­cling through Harry Cur­tis (a fa­mil­iar name to many who were on the Cana­dian cy­cling scene in the 1980’s and 1990’s), who just hap­pened to be my high school foot­ball coach and Grade Nine draft­ing teacher.

Harry, or “Mr. Cur­tis” at that time, rec­og­nized that my sport pas­sion in life then was hockey. I played rep hockey in Thun­der Bay, Ont., and if there was a foot­ball game and hockey prac­tice go­ing on at the same time, I was at the hockey prac­tice.

Harry pulled me aside one day and said, “Curt, I see that you have big plans with your hockey, and I have the pre­fect way for you to stay in shape for hockey dur­ing the sum­mer months. How about you come and try out for the high school cy­cling team?”

You see, as a mem­ber (I think he was pres­i­dent at that time) of the Thun­der Bay Cy­cling Club, Harry wanted to build a com­pet­i­tive in­ter­col­le­giate cy­cling pro­gram in Thun­der Bay.

His tim­ing was per­fect. The sum­mer of 1979, just before I en­tered high school, I raced mo­tocross, but I re­ally wasn’t very good. Hav­ing sold my mo­tocross bike at the end of that sum­mer, I was look­ing for an­other sum­mer hobby – per­haps one that was a lit­tle safer and cheaper than mo­tor­cy­cles. I thought (ob­vi­ously in­cor­rectly) that bi­cy­cle rac­ing would be per­fect.

So I showed up to Ham­marskjold High School’s first cy­cling-team train­ing day in a pair of gym shorts, some cut off mo­tocross gloves, a re-pur­posed hockey hel­met and a bor­rowed (from my fu­ture brother-in­law) CCM Targa that was two sizes too big for me. That year, I won the City Cham­pi­onship. And the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

My de­sire to retell this story is to em­pha­size the point that cy­cling is the per­fect home for sec­ond-sport ath­letes. There is no doubt that high-per­for­mance sport across the board has be­come more so­phis­ti­cated, but I do be­lieve in the need to un­earth prospec­tive tal­ent in the most cre­ative of ways.

I have never sat down with Harry to dis­cover whether his in­ten­tion for me to get in­volved in cy­cling was for me to one day show up on an Olympic podium – al­though he was in the in­field of the 7-Eleven Olympic Velo­drome in 1984 when I won my first Olympic medal. I feel pretty cer­tain that it wasn’t; his de­sire was to share a sport that he loved very much (along with foot­ball and wrestling) with some­one in whom he saw po­ten­tial. He also rec­og­nized the sell­ing fea­ture of his sport and the ben­e­fit of that fea­ture to his target con­sumer (me).

I did use cy­cling to stay in shape for my hockey. I would show up at my end of sum­mer pre-sea­son hockey camps skat­ing cir­cles around my team­mates – funny tan lines and all. In the 1982 On­tario Hockey League Draft, I was picked 144th over­all by the Lon­don Knights. In some sort of twisted irony, I tried out for the Knights at the same arena that now houses the For­est City Velo­drome. It was at that train­ing camp that I de­cided to quit hockey to fo­cus full-time on my cy­cling, and it was a lit­tle less than two years later that I was stand­ing on the Olympic podium ac­cept­ing a sil­ver medal that I had earned that day in the Kilo­me­tre Time Trial.

We have a long list of ath­letes who have found cy­cling af­ter vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess in their “orig­i­nal” sport and have gone on to great suc­cess. The fact of the mat­ter is that that list may be too long to print here. The great thing about cy­cling is that from a tech­ni­cal stand­point, it is not very com­pli­cated to pick up on and the var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties an ath­lete de­vel­ops can be eas­ily adapted to cy­cling.

Cy­cling in Canada needs to take a page from the Bob­sleigh Canada play­book and ac­tively al­low high-per­for­mance ath­letes from other sports know that we are open for busi­ness. Then we will just need to find a way to fund it all. That’s an­other con­ver­sa­tion.

Curt Har­nett at the 7-Eleven Olympic Velo­drome in 1984 where he won sil­ver in the Kilo, his first Olympic medal.

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