Gracie Elvin: Why I’ll be humming Smoke on the Water at the Olympics

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There are so many things I want to say and people to thank now that it has been announced that I have been selected to represent Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but first I want to tell you a story. It’s not my story – you’ve probably heard 100 like mine where a kid who is last in every race goes on to become an Olympian – this story is about who got me here.

I want to dedicate my biggest achievement (so far) to my Dad.

Dad poured his energy and heart into cross-country skiing and was very good when he was about my age. So good in fact that he posted some very impressive international results for our small summer-sport loving country. He qualified for a Winter Olympic Games but because of political reasons was not given the opportunity to go. This experience crushed him but ultimately shaped the way he would be in the future as a father.

Dad is the biggest feminist I know. His respect for women and their abilities always seemed normal to me, but as I have grown into an adult I have realised how rare this quality can be. My sister and I were given every opportunity to run, jump, play, cycle, swim, explore and learn. He always told us that we could do anything with our bodies or our brains.

Since I chose cycling as my sport, dad has been there alongside me. He set up an old road bike for me and I was hooked. My next bike was a heavy old thing but he always insisted “It’s not about the bike. A great rider can win on any bike. If you’re good enough, one day someone will give you one for free.” When it came to dreaming big, he told me I could be the best in the world if I did it the right way. When it came to the Olympics he told me that it was possible but it was just one race and to make sure I enjoyed every other cycling moment just in case.

A photo posted by Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin) on

Dad has a vast knowledge of physiology and training and coached me when I was a teenager. He had the strength and wisdom to let me go and be taken care of by other coaches along the way. I always will respect him for always trusting me to make my own decisions. He has never lived vicariously through me even though it would have been so easy to. Instead we shared the good and the bad times as mates and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

When I get told that I am a good role model for my sport, I want it to be for the things dad taught me – to be honest, patient, kind and grateful, and that being a champion isn’t about winning. These are the qualities I want to pass on to the next generation.

The Olympic experience will certainly be incredibly special, but it will also sit alongside the memories I have of us singing to Hendrix and Zeppelin on the way to our favourite climbs. There are a lot of people who I have proven wrong, but a lot more people who I am happy to prove right. This is about them, and me, and dad. I will be quietly humming “Smoke on the Water” when I stand on that start line.

Gracie Elvin is a two-time Australian national champion who races with Orica-AIS. This article is an edited version of a post on her blog, republished with her permission, and there are also plenty more stories on her cycling journey to be found on her website.

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