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Friday, December 22, 1995
PROFILE: Alison Sydor
Sydor's swift mountain climb

By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

Alison Sydor's progression as an athlete has been nothing short of astounding.

In a span of 10 years, the Calgary native has evolved from a decent high school athlete (jack of all trades, master of none) to world mountain bike champion.

Sydor didn't even take up cycling as a recreational pastime until age 20 (1987), during her first year of biochemistry studies at the University of Victoria.

Within a year she was on the national team. Three years after that she became the first Canadian woman to win a world championship medal in the individual road race competition (a bronze).

In 1991, the North Vancouver resident decided to concentrate more on cycling's mountain bike discipline. That season, she finished fifth at the worlds, placed second the following year. She's now a two-time defending world mountain queen.

All that's left is a gold at the Atlanta Olympics.

"I did a lot of different sports in high school, but I was always second- or third-best, never the best in anything," Sydor said yesterday, during a break from training. "By the time I arrived at UVic, I had basically tried every sport under the sun."

Sydor, 29, decided to tackle the demanding sport of triathlon (cycling, swimming, running) during her first year at UVic, "basically just to keep active."

Realizing that competing in the triathlon is more than just a part-time fling, Sydor elected to concentrate exclusively on cycling. The rest is Canadian history.

"By the end of that year (1987), I went to the Western Canadian Games and won gold in all three (cycling) disciplines," she said. "Obviously, it was the sport for me."

Sydor competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, finishing 12th in the road race, but soon after decided mountain biking suited her best.

OLYMPIC SURPRISE

Obviously she isn't alone; the sport has grown by leaps and bounds all over the world. "At the first mountain bike worlds I competed in (1991), there were about 80 women. At this year's competition, there were 169 women from 35 countries," she said. "And I guarantee you, it will be one of the best events in Atlanta."

Still, even after deciding to forsake road racing for the trails and hills, Sydor never dreamed the International Olympic Committee would include mountain biking as a medal event by the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"Usually it takes years for that to happen," she said. "I never thought while I was still competing in this event, I'd get the chance to take part in the Olympics."

Not only take part, probably win. Even though she had an up-and-down 1995 season, Sydor came through with another world title and quickly has earned the reputation as a big-meet competitor.

"That's one of the most impressive things about Alison," said Canadian Cycling Association executive director Patrick Healy. "It's one thing aiming for the top, but it's a whole different ball game getting there and staying there. She obviously has what it takes."

Alison Sydor in the news
Everything wrong for Sydor
Sydor finishes fifth in Sydney
Sydor takes silver in Sydney tune-up
Sydor in pictures
Racing in Sydney
A Sydney start
In action
Silver medallist
Wiping out