in track cycling circles around the world the rebecca romero story is known. in rowing
circles it is known: she is the British rower who earned silver at the athens olympics then
switched to cycling and won olympic gold. Bold homepage words on romero’s website
read: “a seamless transition from rowing to cycling.”
That transition for Romero took five months. After
winning at the World Rowing Championships in
the women’s quad in 2005, Romero re-evaluated
her goals, switched to cycling, and in 2006 she
became British Champion in the 3km individual
pursuit. Two years later Romero was the Olympic
Champion of the individual pursuit.
of 17, Romero was selected for the British junior
Meanwhile, racing in the same track cycling event
at the Beijing Olympics, New Zealand’s Ali Shanks
finished fourth. Shanks’ rise, like Romero’s, was
rapid. Three years in the sport. Her background
Romero’s speedy rise in rowing was similar. Just
eight months after starting the sport, at the age
The brains behind New Zealand track cycling put
two and two together and came up with the
“Power to the Podium” programme. “We thought
we’d try to get a mass of girls around Ali to push her
forward,” says BikeNZ high performance director
Mark Elliot. “So rather than just look to other
cyclists we advertised for anyone who wanted to
go to the 2012 Olympics in the individual pursuit.”
Rebecca Romero of Great Britain
celebrates her Olympic gold
medal in the women’s individual
pursuit track cycling at the 2008
Beijing Olympic Games.
Rebecca Romero (second from left) wins silver in the women’s
quadruple sculls at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, along
with teammates Alison Mowbray, Debbie Flood, Frances Houghton.
Elliot was predicting a response from about
20 athletes. Instead he received 130 applications.
“They were diverse, from inline skaters to BMX
riders. About 10 per cent of them had some
background in rowing,” says Elliot who knew
the Romero story. Four rowers made the top 20.
Selected in the top five was Jamie Nielsen.
Nielsen, 23, has been part of the New Zealand
rowing team since 2003 and in February this year
successfully competed at the National Rowing
Championships. Amongst other medals, Nielsen
picked up silver in the women’s single. Nielsen
says she has occasionally done cycling as cross-training for rowing and after learning about the
podium programme, she decided to give track
cycling a go. Still training for rowing, Nielsen would
row in the morning and cycle in the afternoon.
“The switch to cycling wasn’t that difficult,” says
Nielsen who finished second recently at the
New Zealand track nationals, just four months >