While you won’t see Molly Simpson on your TV during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, it nearly became a reality.
Simpson has represented Canada internationally in the past, but earlier this month she got the email of a lifetime – the Red Deer native was named an alternate for Canada’s BMX team for the Olympics – a completely surreal moment for the 18-year-old.
“I’m just so young so it’s cool to see that I have many more years to keep working at it,” said Simpson, who has been one of the top-ranked junior riders in the world.
“Being an alternate is pretty cool, then again me being super competitive, I’m also like ‘I want the full spot, not to be an alternate.’ It fires me up even more. Just motivates me, makes me an all-around better rider and person.”
In any other year, Simpson would be on the ground in Japan, hanging out with the top athletes in the world, relishing the chance to learn from and develop with them. However, Cycling Canada only sent one male and one female BMX racer to Tokyo.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Simpson wasn’t able to go to the Games, instead of watching from a distance in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she’s doing what she loves: competing.
Instead of dwelling on the fact that she just missed out on a chance to represent Canada at the Olympics, the ultra-competitive BMXer is using it as motivation and is ready to race all over the world in the next few months.
She just spent 10 days earlier this month with Canada’s national team in Houston, Texas, training for the Games. It was there she was learning from the best, racing with the best and finding out what it’s going to take to earn her shot at the Summer Olympics in Paris – three years from now.
“It was a cool camp because it was nice to see what the Olympians do and how they practice. There were other Olympians at the camp, like Connor Fields who is an Olympic champion for the States. He was very fast and professional. Cool to see that,” she said.
After the short stay in Salt Lake City this weekend, she’s off to California to train with her coach, before heading over to the Netherlands to compete at the World Championships.
“World Champs has always been my favourite race, just because everybody is there and you ride for your country,” said Simpson.
“It’s basically an Olympics, but a bit lower. It’s super cool.”
It’s there, she’ll race in the elite/ pro category, after making the jump from junior this season. She has two World Cup pro races under her belt already this season, after racing in both Bogota, Columbia and Verona, Italy in May.
“It’s a real eye-opener. You get in the gate and you look beside you and it’s your idol,” she said.
“It’s just crazy to see you look up to all these girls and now they’re your competitors. It’s an unreal feeling that’s for sure.”
Moving into the pro ranks after a lost season last year will be a remarkable test for the 18-year-old, who will turn 19 in December.
After all, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on her progress on the track last year – Simpson instead chose to turn her sights inward and see how she could improve with the extended break.
That’s made a world of difference already, as her sights shift to pro racing.
“I think it was actually very good for me. It gave me time to work on my weaknesses and my strengths. I was able to put my head down and really train and not have to peak or rest up,” said Simpson, who only managed to enter a few races in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I improved on a lot of things during that period, I think that was really good for me and I also have a really good training partner in Red Deer… Carson Kowaski helps me a lot when we train together. We just buckled down and got the work done.”
While the pro ranks have her attention for now, Paris 2024 is her ultimate focus. She has no doubt in her mind that friends, family and those who have been watching will get to hear the words: Molly Simpson, Olympian.
“I know with just how hard I work I will be in medal contention for that one. I’m just super excited for time to kinda go by and keep picking away at it,” she said.