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Carstairs cyclist takes big step towards possible Olympic glory

Top 100 athletes, including Carstairs teen, will now go on to the RBC Training Ground national finals in Ottawa on Oct. 22
MVT Rebecca Nielsen
Rebecca Nielsen takes part in the recent RBC Training Ground qualifying event. Submitted photo

CARSTAIRS - A Grade 12 Hugh Sutherland School student has been named as a finalist in the RBC Training Ground, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s annual athletic talent search program, officials said.

Rebecca Nielsen, 17, is primarily a long distance runner and basketball player, but is now focusing on track cycling.

More than 1,500 athletes from a wide range of sports took part in free qualifier events in recent months, showing off their talents through speed, strength, power and endurance tests. The tests were overseen by Olympic talent scouts.

The top 100 athletes, including Nielsen, will now go on to the RBC Training Ground national finals in Ottawa on Oct. 22.

The top 30 athletes at the finals will earn funding, a spot on Team Canada and an accelerated path to the Olympic Games.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being challenged as an athlete in a competitive environment and I am very excited to be able to meet and talk with Olympians.

“Kelsey Mitchell and Lauriane Genest are my favourite Olympians, and they both came through this program, which is really exciting.”

Tanya Dubnicoff is the advanced coach with Cycling Canada.

“Becca seems to love track cycling. At our recent camp, she finished a fast effort and gave a quick glance at her dad who was sitting in the stands. It was the biggest and brightest smile I have ever seen.”

During the finals in Ottawa, the athletes will again be tested for speed, power, strength and endurance against sport specific, high performance benchmarks under supervision of program sports partners, say officials.

The RBC Training Ground program is now in its seventh year. So far, more than 12,000 athletes have been tested through the program, with 1,600 being identified as having Olympic potential.

Program graduates have won a total of seven Olympic medals to date.

An athlete since childhood, Nielsen says she plans to pursue a career in nursing after high school.