Article from Australian Newspaper - 1/4/96

The report from the Australian newspaper's cycling writer John Hogan in today's national edition is headlines "Watson happy to take hard road to glory" and is subtitled "a late starter to cycling, Tracey Watson's recent efforts have her well and truly in contention for Atlanta."

Hogan continues "a former lecturer in statistics stormed into Olympic gold medal calculatoins with a decisive recent victory over reigning road cycling champion Kathy Watt. Australian time trial champion Tracey Watson, 26, had the cycling world buzzing on March 16 after producing something special to win the AIS Cycle Classic in Canberra, 45 seconds ahead of Watt, who claimed gold at Barcelona."

"Statistics are sometimes used for support rather than illumination but not in this case. Watson, who took up the sport a little more than three years ago, clocked 25 mins 55 secs to average 48.6 kms per hour over 21 km. Her remarkable time would have placed her 11th outright in the men's event. Jonathan Hall, a Commonwealth Games representative in 1994, finished 10th in the men's race with a time of 25 mins 54 secs. Current world champion (in team's pursuit), Rodney McGee clocked 26m 40s and Joshua Collingwood, the current world junior champion finished in 27m 07s."

"Those time clearly reflect Watson's ability. It should also be noted that on the previous three days the AIS scholarship holder won the White Pages Tour (over three days) which included teams from New Zealand and Germany plus all the state institutes. She won the final stage by over 4 minutes from Watt. Australian Cycling Federation officials were understandably delighted by Watson's display."

Ron Bonham, an ACF official said "Watt finished third in the world last year in the time trial and this woman has whipped her by 45 seconds. Watt has been in outstanding form, so it is not as if her form is off. It is just that this girl is sensational"

Editorial note from Bill: Note that sexist males still call 26 year old women girls but usually never refer to males of the the same age as boys. Why are sport's writers, commentators, officials etc so bloody backward? Back to the report.

Hogan writes that "Although the Olympic team will not be finalised until after the national championships in Sydney this month, Watson has essentially picked herself. Three women from a squad of eight will be chosen for road racing in Atlanta. And two of the trio will ride in the ITT. That is Watson's forte and, obviously, the event she is focused on. Her main rivals for a place are fellow Victorians Watt and Anna Wilson. A very determined individual by nature, Watson was proud of Watt's gold medal victory in 1992 but it did not inspire her to pick up a bike. At the time, she was at home in Geelong, concentrating on an academic career and knew very little about cycling. Watson fell into the sport three years ago when she entered the Great Queensland Bike Ride for recreation and fun at the end of 1992. She is not from a sporting background. Rather, her family emphasised the need for an education to secure a good job. She listened, becoming a lecturer in statistics at Deakin University, Geelong."

"Watson started riding half seriously early in 1992 and gained much support from Geelong West Cycling Club and, in particular, Geelong's Donna Rae-Szalenski, coach at the Victorian Institute of Sport, who played a key role in her development. The former schoolgirl gymnast chose road racing because she likes to things the hard way. The fact that the races are long and competitors have to train hard for long periods appealed to her. That reveals much about her character...gritty and persistent. Watson enjoys undertaking things which are a genuine challenge with a degree of difficulty to maintain her interest."

"Cycling offered just that and bluntly reaffirned to her its gruelling conditions when riding in the world road championshiops last year at an altitude of 2600 m in Bogota, Colombia. She has no sporting heroes and has never focused on other athletes to motivate herself, believing that at the end of the day all that is left is your. She just admires people who try hard. In the beginning the Olympic Games were not in her mind but she managed to represent Victoria at the national championships in her first year in the sport while working full time and studying part-time. Two years ago she raced quite well;. being placed highly against rivals who had qualified for the Commonwealth Games squad. She was on the fringe. Not quite good enough but it gave her a taste for the big time. Watson subsequently applied to the Australian Cycling Federation for permission to race as an individual at the world championships in Sicily in August, 1994."

"In an unprecedented move, someone not in the national squad was given clearance to represent Australia at a major event. It proved to the Federation her commitment to the sport because, although nowhere near her potential, she was prepared to go overseas at her own expense to compete. Given she only had limited experience of three time trials under her belt, she finished 24th in the individual event but crashed in the road race. Four months later, her record for that year earned he a scholarship to the AIS in Canberra. Watson has continued paying a price ever since in pursuit of her goals."

She said "It's a big sacrifice. The way I see it I've given up a lot of my life for this; a great career, a good education and family life. I've got a lot to lose as I've put a lot on hold. So you don't give that much up to only give 90 per cent."

Hogan continues "experience of racing in Europe beckoned so she spent five and a half months overseas last year, returning exhausted but to a renewed scholarshop which prompted her to finally resign her lecturing job. Last weekend, she surprised herself with the consistency of her performances, as it had been nearly a six months without a solid road race since returning from overseas. With the help of the AIS and Olympic Coach Andrew Logan, she steadily built up her training program. But racing is vastly different to training, hence the overall satisfaction with her time trial times. According to Watson, beating Watt by 45 seconds was pretty significant."

Watson said that "the thing is we're all training specifically to make the Olympic team so ther is no chance for second best. And it is at the stage now where the level of athleticism in the sport is increasing to the point where no one is dominating all the time anymore. And that is good for everyone, Kathy as well, because the standard is improving. Those who make the Olympic team will deserve it because they will be pushed all the way."

Hogan says "Despite an obvious need to stay focused and retain confidence in her preparation, Watson understands the power of a dream and the purpose of visualisation. After her performances in Canberra she daydreamed of winning in Atlanta."

Watson said "If you can sit there and daydream for an hour and a half about winning you've got your head in the right place. If you can't focus and imagine about succeeding then you're never going to get there. If you can see it, plan the whole scenario, then it's one step closer. The closer it gets the more determined I am to make it there. I'm not someone who gives in."

Hogan notes that "Logan, coach of the women's road racing squad, agrees Watson has come a long way in a short period of time but says such advancement is fairly typical in women's cycling. It stems from the fact that the sport does not have a large fraternity as is the case with other codes."

Logan says that "The depth is not there as far as athlete talent is concerned. I don't think women's cycling has ever been promoted as a sport in Australia. And it still only a young sport, considering the 1984 Olympic Games was the first that had any women's cycling events. She is very determined but any person working at this level has got to have full-on commitment. You know what you want, what your goals are, where you want to go and, if you believe in yourself, then you believe you can achieve something. That is fundamental for anyone in high-performance sport or in busines."

So how did Tracey's dream finish up? She said "I won the road race, which is on the second day of the Olympics, and in the ITT, which is on the last day (first week) I came back and won by 26 seconds."