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A Conversation with Gold Medalist Mountain Biker, Catharine Pendrel

Mountain Biker, Catharine Pendrel and daughter Dara

This June, Olympian and gold medal mountain biker, Catharine Pendrel, will be inducted into our Hall of Fame at our Gala in Tantramar. Although we are celebrating her career and her wins on the world stage, she has since been making headlines as coach for Team Canada, most recently when her protegés Gunnar Holmgren and Jenn Jackson won gold at the Panamerican games. We caught up with her in early April, just before the UCI Mountain Bike World Series in Brazil, for a quick conversation about what's coming up for the National team, and about how she got started on the hazardous path of mountain biking.

NBSHF: So are you still working with the same group of Athletes?

CP: Yes, I am overseeing the programming for the national team. I will be in Paris at the Olympics with whoever is selected. So they're going to have four athletes contending for two spots right now. The World Cups kick off in Brazil this weekend, and then we have a bit of a break, then I'll take a team To the Pan American championships, and then the last Olympic selection event is at the end of May in the Czech Republic.

NBSHF: How are you feeling about all of it, are you excited?

CP: Yeah, I mean, I think we have some riders that are riding really well. Now, of course, there's also Olympic years that are much more stressful... We have several great riders, but only two spots; one male and one female. It's tough because you know somebody's going to be heartbroken and somebody's going to be excited. But… my job is to to get them to focus on more than just that one event. We have an entire World Cup season that everyone has some big goals for as well.

NBSHF: What is the difference in level of preparation and competition between an Olympic an Olympic contest versus say the Panamerican games?

CP: Is easy for people to get focused on these three positions [bronze, silver, gold] having value or selection versus non selection having value… They can miss the fact that an entire season has value. Your attention just gets very pinpointed towards this one thing..

NBSHF: While you were living in Harvey Station in New Brunswick, did you develop an interest in athletics?

CP: Yeah, I definitely I started. Going into my last year of high school, I found mountain biking because my brother had discovered it. So I did a couple of years of racing the New Brunswick Cup series and definitely it was the community in New Brunswick that made mountain biking seemed like a fun avenue. Seeing the girls prepare for the The 1997 Canada Games kind of opened my eyes too. ‘Ohh hey, there's some pretty neat things that you can do with this sport,’ and that was kind of my jump point to getting in.

NBSHF: OK, cool. And was there anyone in particular from New Brunswick that you connected with in the mountain biking community?

CP: Yeah, Anna Healy. She was a Canada Cup level racer that had moved to New Brunswick from Alberta. She was that mentor that could show me what the next level could look like. I was fortunate that when I starting mountain biking, I had a couple of strong women that I could aspire to be as strong as; Ones that were also happy to support my entry into this sport, and my development. Jane McEwan was another Fredericton woman that was helpful. And then even just move the close relationship with them. There's women from Nova Scotia that went to school at UNB that were. Also, just these women that inspired me to just show me how strong women could be on a bike.

NBSHF: What is some of the best advice you’ve received and from whom?

CP: A World Cup mountain biker from Nova Scotia, Karen Dewolfe, when I was struggling, told me to trust my bike. That was good advice at that moment because sometimes [your anxieties] get in the way of performing well. If you just trust and kind of go with the flow, essentially things work out.

Another one was from my former teammate who had won the World Championship. She told me that I had to make it happen. You don't just win races because you're amazing. You win races because you do everything physically possible to get to the the end of the line first, and so it was just kind of a reminder of like, you know, you might be physically peaked for this event, but you it still comes down to you getting it done.

NBSHF: All right. Well thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

CP: Yeah, it was my pleasure.

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