Heather Moyse wants to add track cycling to a sports resume that includes an Olympic gold medal in bobsled and two World Cup appearances with the Canadian rugby team.
When Moyse takes on a sport, she takes it to the highest level. But the 33-year-old from Summerside, P.E.I., is in hurry-up mode to gain proficiency on two wheels. She wants to race for the Canadian track cycling team this winter.
“I'm not holding back. I have no time to hold anything back,” Moyse said Tuesday from Toronto.
“It's basically just a steep learning curve. I don't have time to sit through all the pee wee pedalling, beginner classes, so I'm just going out there and doing it.”
Moyse and pilot Kaillie Humphries won the gold medal in women's bobsled at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Within weeks of that triumph, Moyse joined the Canadian women's rugby team for her second World Cup tournament. Moyse was an all-star at the 2006 World Cup in Edmonton, where the Canadians were fourth.
Canada finished sixth in England in 2010. Moyse tore ligaments and suffered bone bruises in her right ankle in her final game Sept. 5 against the United States. That injury still lingers and has led her to track cycling.
When she returned to bobsled partway through last season, her ankle wouldn't allow to her train, lift weights or slide much outside of actual races.
She and Humphries won bronze at the world championships, but the impact of sprinting made Moyse's ankle swell up for two days after every race. She wasn't willing to hobble through another bobsled season, lose fitness and risk poor results.
“As a competitor, I don't think I would be happy,” Moyse explained. “I was thinking ‘Cycling, if I take a break from bobsleigh, this is a way I could keep up speed and power in my legs without that impact that would irritate my ankle further.’ ”
Moyse spent two weeks in September cycling with the Canadian team at a Los Angeles velodrome. She'll return to California this weekend and attempt the national-team qualifying standard this month. Moyse needs to complete a lap in under 20.4 seconds.
While she has the leg power for track cycling, Moyse discovered there's so much more to the sport than pedalling fast around an indoor track.
“It's not just riding a bike, but riding a bike with your feet clipped in, with no brakes and there's no coasting on a track bike so your legs are going the entire time, and it's basically up on a wall,” she said. “It's more technical that I had anticipated, which makes a challenge that much bigger.
“The national cycling team will be deciding their World Cup team in the next few weeks. I honestly don't know if that's enough time for me to prove I can learn the techniques and stuff in time and not be a hazard.
“It is a dangerous sport. My mom wishes I was going lawn bowling or badminton or something like that.”
One reason Moyse is successful in different sports is she doesn't expend energy thinking about competition beyond her next one. She's driven to reach short-term goals and her life is about qualifying for the national cycling team right now. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are not on her radar at the moment.
“I'm not announcing I have a 2012 Olympic dream. If I don't make this team, there is no 2012,” she said. “That's a full year away and it's a brand new sport. I've only been on a track for a total of 10 days.”
When Moyse decided to give track cycling a try, the first person she contacted was Clara Hughes. Hughes, 39, won two Olympic bronze medals in road cycling followed by multiple medals in speed skating before returning to the bike.
Hughes put Moyse in touch with former track cyclist and Canadian coach Tanya Dubnicoff. She invited the Moyse to first observe the national championship in Bromont, Que., and then attend an August training camp in Pennsylvania where Moyse got her first taste of track cycling.
“When someone like Heather walks into the building and has incredible raw talent on the bike, you can't not take a look at it,” Dubnicoff said. “The big challenge is to get her technically up to speed so she can do the effort that we're asking her to do.
“We want her to do these standing-start efforts, but she still needs to know the etiquette of getting on and off the track, the speed she needs to maintain, proper warmup for her. There's all these little things she's been finding out and dialing in before she has the experience to just do a lap.”
The next Winter Olympics and Women's Rugby World Cup are both in 2014. Moyse says she doesn't know if or when she'll return to either sport.
“Those are tough questions,” she said. “I'm a one-season kind of person.
“I'm considering this a one- or two-year hiatus from bobsledding. The main reason for this season is definitely my ankle, but I think mentally it is good for me. I know a lot of the focus is on Sochi in 2014. It's difficult for me to look at a three-year commitment, as opposed to a one-year commitment right now.”
Moyse is accustomed to taking breaks and returning to sport. She didn't slide during the 2006-'07 bobsled season so she could finish her Masters degree in occupational therapy at the University of Toronto.
When Moyse travelled with the bobsled team to competitions and training camps, the team paid for accommodation, meals and flights. Trying a new sport means she will pay for training and equipment costs. Moyse is grateful Prince Edward Island Potatoes is sponsoring her and her bike.
She doesn't think it unusual to quickly switch sports. She played every sport she could growing up on Prince Edward Island, moving from soccer to basketball to rugby and track and field with ease.
“I think there is something to be said for variety,” Moyse said. “That's how I was brought up. I was fortunate I grew up in a small town where I could do all those things. It's probably benefited me in the long run.
“I worry a little bit about kids now who are so focused and limited to one sport. There's a lot more pressure now from coaches and teams to focus mostly on one sport. How does a child at the age of 13 and 14 know what they're really going to be good at? Cross-training is extremely important.”