NEW DELHI -- You could definitely feel the positive vibe around the Canadian track cycling team Friday at the velodrome at Indira Gandhi Stadium.
It was there in the effusive manner coach Richard Wooles greeted Tara Whitten (pictured) and Zach Bell after their bronze medal wins. It was there in the way Wooles and the other team members gathered to take pictures of the Canadians when they were up on the podium. This was a team that once didn't bother to come out and see each other race.
Canada's track cyclists are on the rise and Wooles is being credited with spurring the revival. The native of Wales is clearly dedicated and passionate about the job and it's rubbed off on the athletes. His wife, Andrea, is the team's integrated support co-ordinator and a top notch physiologist.
“My goal within Canadian cycling is to win medals, that's first and foremost,” said Wooles. “But also to try to build and leave a legacy where we have this formula where anybody can come in and there's a system that will help develop you.
“I think before individuals were working in isolation. Now hopefully we can find three or four more Taras, they come in and we hopefully get them to that next level. It's creating a team atmosphere where we work together and we're all happy to put on the national jersey.”
Bell is among those impressed with the positive direction the team is taking.
“I think the team's really grown and it's grown virtually on the back of Richard and the CCA (Canadian Cycling Association) and the development they're trying to do,” said the native of Watson Lake, Yukon. “Generally, our sport falls into the shadows. But I think with Tara and the way she's been riding and the way Richard's been able to bring up some of the young guys and also he's been able to bring me up to a level where I'm competitive in things like this.”
Bell said they veterans can feel some heat from the next generation of riders.
“I think that's what's going to help push us forward as a team towards the Olympics. I think we have a lot of good medal hopefuls.”
Right now, Whitten gives the team a marquee performer, even if she is low key about her success. She's definitely a team player and the kind of athlete interested in making the people around her better, too.
“She's a great teammate to have, because she's constantly thinking of ways to improve the program and she's constantly supporting all the athletes at every level,” said Bell. “She's had a huge rise and has maintained a good head on her shoulders and is always there to help anyone on the team, young or older, and open to suggestions from anyone. She keeps us all realizing that we deserve to be here and that's huge for our country, I think.”
It could be huge come 2012 in London.
(This photo was taken by one of the best in the business, Andy Clark of Reuters, an old colleague from United Press Canada days. Not to date myself or Andy, but I covered my first multisport Games with him -- the 1981 Canada Summer Games in Thunder Bay)