Former medallist Susy Pryde still splitting time
As an athlete, Susy Pryde was one of those rare people who could split her talents over disciplines and remain at the top of her game. She explains to Matt Richens she's still splitting her time, but now it's over family, law and coaching.
Susy Pryde attended two Olympics and three Commonwealth Games, winning silver medals in 1998 and 2002, one in road cycling and one in mountainbiking. She swapped her bikes for law books, but even more than a decade after retiring, the now 40-year-old is still involved in bike sports.
Q - You stopped racing 11 years ago now, what have you been up to in that time?
A - When I stopped racing I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay involved as a road and mountainbike coach and mentor while I studied law at the University of Auckland. In 2006 I founded a women's cycling development team for Kiwis sponsored by Jazz Apples. We had four or five young up-and-coming girls travel to the States for a taste of life racing on the professional circuit. In 2009 I finished my degree and became pregnant. I started practising law - civil litigation - in 2011 and was based in Dunedin for 18 months before coming back here to Auckland for family reasons.
Q - And are you still involved with cycling or mountainbiking?
A - Very much so, when I returned to Auckland I decided to focus more time with my then 2 1/2-year-old Sebastian and took on some cycling coaching/mentoring work again, this time with St Cuthbert's College and King's College. I've done 18 months or so now and it has been really neat to be involved at a high-school level as well as having the flexibility to spend some time with my family. I still enjoy riding too, just at a slower pace now.
Q - You won two Commonwealth Games silver medals, what are your Games memories?
A - I competed in three Commonwealth Games. I was 19 when we went to Victoria, Canada, and it was, for most part, a learning experience for me. Learning where the competition bar was. It definitely helped sharpen my focus athletically. Some of my most prominent Games memories are from Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and from outside of competition. Using the commuter trains, navigating the sprawling city and being among the people. For some reason the environment at those Games was calm for me; something laid-back about the culture. At Manchester, you got a real sense of the crowd, there were people leaning in within inches of your nose cheering at full volume. People's love for sport comes into very sharp focus at events like these and it really feels like you're sharing something personal with humanity at large.
Q - How difficult was it to get to that level at two different sports?
A - The main challenge was time - I had to be focused with my time on the mountainbike because I had road racing commitments most of the year. There was a small window in the season for me to race my mountainbike, namely January and February, when I had to really impress to be considered for a national team. I also had to work on whole bunch of new skills on the mountainbike. But I liked the challenge of it all and could see I was improving quickly so I didn't think about it as being hard. I was lucky to have some very good introductory sessions from David Benson, a mountainbike pioneer in New Zealand, which gave me an instant liking for it.
Q - Do you still get recognised and do people still ask about the Games and the medals?
A - Not really, I mean people who know me obviously know about it and it comes up from time to time, but it's not as if people are saying 'there's that woman who used to ride a bike all those years ago'.
Q - What do your medals mean to you?
A - They are just really a snapshot in time for me - a flashback to a moment in time of people, places, emotion (frustration, happiness, relief) - a bit like a photograph. I don't have them displayed or anything like that but if there is the occasion to haul them out, I know it is not just me who earned a particular result but a number of people such as my coach, my husband, my sponsors and lots of kind people who gave me even a little bit of confidence and encouragement that it is possible to achieve a goal.