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Whitten, Bell highlight track cycling squad

LOS ANGELESCycling Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee, is pleased to announce the seven track cycling nominees to the Canadian Olympic team for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, GBR.

Canada qualified for an all-time high six events at the 2012 Olympic Games this upcoming summer: men omnium, women omnium, women team pursuit, women sprint, women keirin and men keirin.

The team will be coached by Richard Wooles, who has re-engineered the track cycling program since joining Cycling Canada a few months before the 2008 Games, turning the program into a World-class and medal-winning environment. Canadian cycling star Tanya Dubnicoff, who has four Top-10 finishes at Olympic Games, will be leading the women’s team pursuit squad at the Games.

“I am proud to welcome these new members of the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team. Their hard work and dedication will inspire Canadians when they hit the track in London,” said Mark Tewksbury, the Canadian Olympic Team Chef de Mission.

Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was also proud of the nominees. “Congratulations on being nominated to the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team. I know the athletes will give their everything when they represent Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games.”

Canada’s track stars Tara Whitten of Edmonton, AB and Zach Bell of Watson Lake, YK (North Vancouver, BC) will both be racing the omnium events. The two athletes have had astonishing success since the introduction of the event at the World Cup level.

“I think it was 18 years ago that I first gave a voice to my dream of going to the Olympic Games. I can remember where I was sitting and how it felt to say those words out loud,” said Whitten. “Today is the culmination of a long and very rewarding journey. Tomorrow I will go back to my job of working towards winning the whole darn thing, but today I will take the time to really appreciate the significance of achieving this lifelong dream of representing Canada at an Olympic Games!”

Whitten has excelled in the women omnium, winning back-to-back UCI World Championships and UCI World Cup titles in 2010 and 2011. On the UCI World Cup tour, Whitten is a force to be reckoned with in every race of the six-race omnium event, a visible target as she wore the coveted rainbow jersey.

Zach Bell will represent Canada in the men omnium. Bell has twice won silver medals at track cycling World Championships, most recently at the 2012 World Championships. Bell, who rides for Team SpiderTech powered by C10 in road events, is excited for the opportunity to race for Canada.

In the women team pursuit, Canada will bring to the start line Tara Whitten as captain, joined by Jasmin Glaesser of Coquitlam, BC and Gillian Carleton of Victoria, BC. The trio has been highly successful, winning the bronze medal at the last UCI World Championships. At the UCI World Cup race in London, which served as the Olympic test event, the Canadian squad twice lowered the Canadian record on the same day in their first two races as a team, winning the silver medal. Laura Brown of Vancouver, BC will serve as the alternate. Brown was part of the gold medal team that rode at the 2011 Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, last fall.

Both Glaesser and Carleton are aspiring athletes hailing from British Columbia, both in their rookie season with the Canadian Track Cycling Team. Together with Whitten, the team enjoyed success since teamed up, and will be looking for more continued success in London.

“I am thrilled to have been nominated to the team. It’s a huge honour to be a part of such a phenomenal group of athletes who have been an inspiration with the success they’ve achieved over the last few years, and the focus which they bring toward replicating that level of excellence this summer,” said Glaesser, who received her Canadian citizenship days before the Pan-American Games last October. “We are also fortunate to have extraordinary support from the staff, family, and friends, whose dedication and commitment is equal to our own, and who will continue to fuel our momentum through the work that lies ahead. With that in mind I think my teammates and I are ready to take on the world’s best in London, and prove ourselves to be a fighting force to be reckoned with!”

For Carleton, who suffered from a broken pelvis in her career first World Cup in Kazakhstan last fall and was bed-ridden for six weeks just six months ago, this nomination is the start of a promising international cycling career.

“I’m very excited to be selected to the Canadian Track Cycling Team to race at the Olympic Games! Our women’s team pursuit program continues to improve every day, and I can’t wait to see the kind of rides we’ll produce in London. I’m also very proud to be representing my country at such an exciting time, with Canadian cyclists dominating international competition in road and mountain bike as well, and I’m confident that cycling will contribute greatly to Canada’s medal count this summer,” said Carleton.

Laura Brown: “I am both honoured and relieved to hear that I have been nominated to the Canadian Olympic Team. I have been involved with the Canadian Women’s Team Pursuit since its inception in 2009, where we won our first World Cup gold medal. The team has come a long way since then in terms of its depth and capacity. Our Olympic trials were very competitive as we are now one of the best teams in the world. Competing at the Olympic Games has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I feel overjoyed to see my hard work and dedication come to fruition now and in August, when we will compete for an Olympic medal.”

Calgary’s Monique Sullivan will be racing for Canada in the women’s sprint and keirin events. Sullivan, has been steadily progressing over the recent past to become a regular contender on the UCI World Cup tour. This spring, Sullivan won both the sprint and keirin titles at the UCI Pan-American Championships.

“I feel very grateful today. I put in my best every day for this opportunity and I had an enormous amount of support from the team, my family, and PCL Construction Leaders: I would not be here today without them. I am very proud to have the opportunity to represent them this summer at the Olympic Games,” shared Sullivan.

Added Sullivan: “The qualification process was very long and stressful, every race was incredibly important, but looking back now I realize how much the process helped me grow and learn and I am not the same rider I was when it began. I am very happy to be part of this team and I can’t wait to see what we can do!.”

In the men’s keirin, Joseph Veloce of Fonthill, ON will represent Canada. Veloce was unable to join the teleconference announcing the nominations, as he graduated today with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from McMaster University. These 2012 Olympic Games, the pinnacle of sports, will be Veloce’s first major Games experience.

“I am very excited to be given the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s taken a lot of hard work and commitment, but it has all been worth it to reach this point. I look forward to the challenge of making my country proud.”

The omnium races for both the men and the women, as well as for the women team pursuit, will be showcased for the first time at Olympic Games.

Of the seven nominees, only Zach Bell has previous Olympic experience. Bell competed for Canada at the 2008 Games in Beijing in the Points and Madison races. In the points race, he finished a respective seventh place.

The last time a Canadian won an Olympic medal in track cycling was Lori-Ann Muenzer of Edmonton, AB, who won the Gold medal in the Women’s sprint event in 2004. In track cycling, Curt Harnett is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with three Olympic medals (1984, Silver; 1992, Bronze; 1996, Bronze).