Haley Smith rolls from Bear Mountain into Tokyo

Haley Smith took a leap of faith in relocating to the Island in 2014 from her hometown of Uxbridge, Ont. If those seven years training on Bear Mountain pay off will be decided in the wee hours this morning Pacific Time when the riders hit the ­finish line in the women’s ­mountain biking race of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“The move to Victoria was a huge benefit in my development as an athlete,” said Smith.

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“It’s become my second home. The ability to stay in Canada on world-class courses was so important, especially in the past year during COVID. You didn’t know if Tokyo was going to happen and now it’s real. I am grateful that it’s happening at all. I am just going to shed the pressure and go for it.”

Smith knows she is following in some legendary tire ruts in her sport. Alison Sydor of Victoria won silver in women’s mountain biking in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Marie-Helene Premont of Quebec the silver in the 2004 Athens Summer Games and Victoria-trained Catharine Pendrel the bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Described as Canada’s Next one, Smith made her multi-sport event breakthrough with bronze in the 2018 Gold Coast ­Commonwealth Games. Said two-time world champion ­Pendrel, who is also racing in the Tokyo Olympics: “This will be a stepping stone for Haley to Paris 2024.”

It will have taken a lot to get there as Smith overcame anorexia as a teen.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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