QUENCHING THE THIRST FOR GOLD IN RIO
Alex Edmondson is one of the world’s best track cyclists. A dual world champion, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and the one of the youngest cyclists ever to make an Australian Olympic Team. He’s just returned from the world championships in France – a campaign that was a good one for the Edmondson family. Things are headed in the right direction ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics.
Alex, we’ll talk about your cycling shortly. But first, let’s get to some very important breaking news you have been responsible for. This vision of you quenching the thirst of a koala is amazing. How did he come to be drinking at the Alex Edmondson bar?
I was with my mate Chris Harper and we were riding down the freeway near the Mt Osmond exit on the South Eastern Freeway in Adelaide. We were on a recovery ride on our way to the coffee shop! Haha.
It’s funny who you bump into on the way to the coffee shop hey. So was the koala making a bit of noise to alert you he was around?
He was just sitting on the ground about a metre away from the bike path so we stopped to check it out. It was a 30 degrees plus day and he looked pretty hot so I squirted a bit of water from my drink bottle in his direction. Before we knew it he climbed up a tree next to me less than a metre away.
And he sounded like the sort of koala that could use a drink!
Yeah he was right next to me. So I squirted my drink bottle a little bit next to him again and all of a sudden he opened his mouth and started to drink. Every now and then he would stick his hand out and try and grab my drink bottle! I think he must have been really thirsty! After he had drunk a bottle and a half he climbed up the tree and continued to eat eucalyptus leaves!
Too bad if you needed a drink hey! Onto far less wildlife friendly matters, you just came back from the world championships in France. You won a bronze medal in the team pursuit. What was the feeling among the team after that result?
To be honest I was a bit disappointed. When you put in so much effort and commitment and you fall short it’s hard to take at the time. We didn’t have a lot of luck on our side but we managed to turn it around and finish off with some real positives we can take out of it. At the same time I’m definitely not knocking a bronze medal!
A top three is a positive sign less than two years out from the Rio Olympics though?
Yeah of course. We know we are moving in the right direction but there is still some room to move.
Are you focusing more on the team events for Rio then?
Yeah for me it’s the team pursuit. At the Olympic Games there is only the team pursuit and Omnium for the endurance riders. So come Rio I’ll be fully committed to the team pursuit. But there is a lot of hard work to be done before then as here in Australia we have so many guys who deserve the limited spots. Even with a lot of young guys coming up from the juniors who are grabbing at our heels!
What did you learn in London that will make you a better athlete at the Rio Olympics?
I did learn a hell of a lot from London. I was the second youngest Australian cyclist to make an Olympic team. When you think of the Olympics you think of success, medals and the amazing time you have but for me it was a little different. I had made it to London but didn’t manage to step on the track with a number on my back. I was the 5th man in the 4-man team. While the boys rode the final and came second I had tears running down my face which I don’t know was either from excitement for the guys or from utter disappointment from not getting a ride. I remember the conversation I had with my sister afterwards. I said to her it’s either I give up now and quit cycling and say I tried or I use this as motivation to prove a point that I deserved a spot and that’s what I did. I tell myself every time I swing my leg over the bike that it’s to prove a point and that I am never ever going to let it happen again.
Great attitude. That said, you were a star of the track at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years later. You were a part of the gold medal winning team pursuit and you won the individual silver medal. How has life been different for you since then?
Wow that’s a nice way to put it! Haha. To be honest I don’t feel any different. The media was pretty crazy around that time and when I came back to Australia but for me I try my best to keep my feet on the ground and focus on my goals and dreams on my bike and not get distracted. I have done a few more talks and functions which I have really enjoyed.
The star is warranted, but if we’re calling you are star, then your sister Annette (left) is a verified superstar with what she achieved. She’s come home with a pocket full of gold from France. You’re some high-achieving siblings you Edmondsons!
Haha yeah that was amazing to see. I have been through the good and the hard times Nettie has gone through and not one time has she given up. I knew this day was coming and to see her get the success she deserves really hit me! When she broke the world record with the girls in the Team Pursuit, I had tears running down my cheeks!
That’s fantastic. Do you think it has been easier to work towards your goals coming through the system when your sibling is pursuing the same dreams? And given you never compete against each other directly on the track?
Yeah of course. To know she goes through the exact same feelings and experiences as I do makes it really special. To know that she is always there if I ever need someone to talk to, some advice either cycling or just in general life really means a lot and that also goes for my sister. This really was shown when we were at the London Olympics where we just had to walk down the hallway to see each other when everyone else had to try and organise a time to talk to their family. She really helped me through that time in London when I was dealing with missing out on a ride in the final.
So you can categorically say there is no sibling rivalry there between you two? Not even a tinge?
Of course not! We are two of the most competitive people going around. I think as we have grown up that side of us has quietened down a bit. It’s nowhere near what it used to be. It used to be a race to be the first into the car for the front seat for the trip to school. If Nettie won a race she would boast she was better then me and vice versa! But it has always been a positive thing not a negative!
Good to hear. We’d be disappointed if that wasn’t the case. Australia is blessed with some amazing track cyclists. You’re around Anna Meares a lot. What sort of inspiration is she to the next generation?
Of course. She is amazing. There is Jack Bobridge and Shane Perkins as well. Of course they are role models and everyone looks up to them. They are always there if you ever need some advice or someone to talk to. I know they have all played a huge role in my career to date.
You’d be the answer to some good trivia questions Alex. You were born in Borneo and lived in Holland and Oman as a kid. How was that experience?
Yeah it’s a bit different to most people that’s for sure. I think it’s been a really positive one for me. I was able to experience a lot more interesting and cool things than a lot of people who have had let’s say a bit more of a normal up bringing.
I can imagine it’s not easy being a young track cyclist trying to be at the top of your game. Unlike professional road cyclists there are not a lot of financial rewards on offer.
There are a lot of hard times when you realise how much you dedicate to this sport. Of course you have everyone telling you “why are you on the track, the money is on the road!” But for me I have a passion for the track and I still haven’t achieved my dream, to win an Olympic Gold Medal! I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by some wonderful and supportive people. Special mention to my family, my coach Tim Decker, MVP Management, Oakley, South Australian Institute of Sport and Cycling Australia. If it wasn’t for all of these guys I can easily say I wouldn’t be where I am today!
Do you think you’ll eventually switch to road racing and try and make a professional living out of the sport?
For me it’s full steam ahead for Rio chasing the ultimate dream of Gold. Then I want to change my focus to the road and set myself up for the future. I want to be able to look back at my life and be able to say I gave it everything, I don’t have any regrets and I achieved what I wanted to!
Well on behalf of us all – and of course the koalas of Australia, good luck chasing that Olympic gold medal in Rio!