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Wednesday, July 31, 1996
PROFILE: Alison Sydor
Silver medal notwithstanding, mountain biking comes up flat

By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

CONYERS, Ga. -- When she hopped on her mountain bike in the heat here yesterday, Allison Sydor of Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver (in that order), was expected to win a gold medal.

She'd won six of the seven World Cup races this year and was the overwhelming favorite to win.

She won silver. And I'd love to report it was exciting.

But to tell the truth, it was the least exciting silver medal I can ever remember watching Canada win at an Olympic Games.

Now maybe from where you watched it, it was great stuff.

But I watched it at the start-finish line of the track constructed on the property of the Georgia International Horse Park where they hold the equestrian competition.

Part of the course ran through a golf course. Part took the riders around a horse training track. And the rest was in ravines.

It was pretty much a rumor to those of us sitting in the press tribune, an expensive structure involving rows of press tables.

We watched them start there. About 35 minutes later they came by again with Sydor and six others in a line going about 10 km/h.

LEANED BACK

Half the photographers then put their equipment down, leaned back on the rail, put their hats over their faces and took a nap. The writers read the papers.

Another 35 minutes or so later and they came by again. This time eventual gold medal winner Paola Pezzo of Italy out by herself. Sydor, eventual bronze-medal winner Susan DeMattei of the USA and Gunn-Rita Dahle of Finland came through together about a minute and a half later.

They rang the bell.

Bell lap?

These girls can't remember if they've gone around this course once or twice?

I don't know. It was the first time for mountain-bike racing in the Olympics and Canada had another silver medal.

I ought not knock it.

But there were 50,000 fans there lining the course where they forgot to put a concession stand (the first recorded incident of the Atlanta organizers screwing up when it comes to making a buck) and what did they watch?

They didn't get much of a show unless they were with the 50 or so at the location where Canada's Andreas Hestler of Victoria stopped for the pause that refreshed that isn't Coca-Cola and was tinkling on a tree while the other racers whizzed past in the men's race.

Of course, there are already reports from home that the event was a hit because the winner, Pezzo, pretty much had her hooters on display all the way, immediately increasing the popularity of the sport around the world.

It was a very different day.

If the country got to know Sydor as a result of what we watched (or didn't watch) then that's great too, because she's a wonderful athlete and a person worth getting to know.

"I wasn't having an awesome day," she said of her race. "Obviously heat was a big factor. You don't normally race mountain bikes in humidity like this.

She said she drank every ounce of water handed to her around the course (and fortunately didn't have to stop to go potty and end up 31st like Hestler).

After the race, Sydor's separated parents had their own individual media scrums where they were telling her story.

LEG MUSCLES

Her dad came to Edmonton as a mining engineer, took the family to several U.S. locations and then moved to Calgary for 13 years.

"The only reason we left Calgary is so she could go to the University of Victoria," reported her mom.

"Do you know that Alison plays hockey in the winter? With her legs, she can outskate everybody. And she's an excellent skier. Those are some outstanding leg muscles."

Papa was proud, too.

"Alison always knew where she was going and how to get there," he said.

Hank Sydor said he knows she's happy with the silver.

"I can tell. She knows she did everything she could do. I know she's not looking at it as something she didn't achieve."
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