Nick Wammes normally has just one speed – fast – but he had to take it slow with his big Olympic news.
The 20-year-old cyclist from Bothwell was set to be named to Canada’s Olympic team in March before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 Tokyo Games to be postponed.
Cycling Canada finally announced this week that he’s on the track team going to Japan next year.
“It’s nice to finally be able to put it out and share the news,” Wammes said.
The Ursuline College Chatham graduate is the team’s youngest member, but he’s been training full-time with the national program for more than 2½ years.
“It’s just hard work and determination to get to the top,” he said. “It’s been a long haul, really. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure.”
Wammes moved to Milton to train at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in October 2017. He tried to not look too far ahead, but he knew the 2024 Paris Olympics were a safer bet than 2020.
“I think originally I was looking at 2024 when I first came in the program here,” he said. “And then the way things sort of lined up I had an outside chance at possibly getting a spot in Tokyo. And then as we progressed through the season it became more and more likely.”
He competed last summer at the Pan Am Games, his first major multi-sport event.
He tied for 13th in the keirin and was 27th in the sprint on the World Cup last November in Hong Kong. And then he earned his first World Cup top-10 finish – ninth in the sprint – in late January in Milton.
“The way the cards played out and things happened in our program, I just saw an outside chance to be in Tokyo and I said, ‘I want to be in Tokyo,’” he said. “And here we are.”
Canada can send two men’s sprinters. Olympic veteran Hugo Barrette of Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., is the other.
The Tokyo Games’ postponement was hard for Wammes. Not only was his dream delayed, but his next four-year training cycle was also thrown up in the air.
“It was difficult to process at first,” he said. “A bit of a roller-coaster of emotions, really.”
He’s since found a silver lining.
“For me, personally, the postponement of the Games is an advantage, honestly,” he said. “I get another year to train and prepare and another chance to go through the process of the Olympic build-up. I think it’s a positive, for sure, for me.”
The national centre was shut down in March, forcing Wammes to move back home with his family for more than two months.
He trained like he did years ago, pedalling on the county roads and riding a trainer in the basement. He also worked out in a neighbour’s garage that was converted to a gym.
“We basically just modified our training to do it without the track,” he said.
The national centre has reopened with strict health and safety guidelines, so Wammes is back on the track again.
Union Cycliste Internationale – the sport’s worldwide governing body – hasn’t announced its track calendar for next season, but Wammes said the Canadians won’t be leaving the country until at least January 2021.
Meanwhile, he continues to prepare for the Olympics and hope the schedule doesn’t change again.
“Next summer’s still a long ways away,” he said. “A lot can happen in that time period. I don’t know what this week or next week may be like, honestly. I think this whole thing is ever-changing and there’s a new learning curve for everyone.
“I think all I can really do is go ahead that the Games will happen next year. I don’t want to show up at the Games next year and not be prepared as much as I could be. I start training every day with the mentality that, ‘Yes, the Games are happening next year. It’s just been postponed by a year.’”