Cyclist aims for 2016 Rio Games

Jonathan Seymour

From ninth grade through the summer before her senior year, Jordan Ellison ’15 believed she was going to play softball in college. She had more than 10 colleges giving her offers to play at their schools. However, after watching cycling events on television during the 2012 London Olympics, she decided that she wanted to try cycling.

Since then, in the past nine months, with what most members of the cycling community consider to be lightning speed, Ellison has propelled herself onto the path to greatness, and her goal is to win the gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. She grew to like cycling so much that she quit softball.

“The story of how I got into cycling is pretty amazing,” Ellison said. “The short version of it is that I saw it in the London Olympics, thought it looked fun, tried it one day, and everything just blew up.”

Ellison’s cycling career was almost over before it started when she was forced off the road by a car on her ride to school and crashed into a streetlight pole last fall, but she recovered and began racing again in February. At a time trial in March, Ellison was noticed by Travis Smith, who would become her cycling coach.

Under Smith’s tutelage, in just five months of training and racing, Ellison was able to compete at the 2014 US Junior National Championships. At the end of June, she placed third in the 500 meter time trial, fourth in the flying 200 and in the match sprint, and seventh in the keirin, which is her favorite race.

The keirin is an eight-lap race with six riders. The first five and a half laps are paced behind a motor that gradually accelerates, and the last two and a half laps are a sprint.

“Training with world class riders for five months is the reason why I was able to quickly make a name for myself within the sport, not only on a local level, but on a national level,” Ellison said. “I think I have always had this natural athletic ability. Something that’s funny is that by the end of junior nationals this past summer, people, including USA Cycling officials, the official videographer at the track, and other coaches all knew me as ‘that softball player that has been racing for only five months.’”

Ellison said that the support of the community and her luck in finding the right people, including her coach, Smith, were the key reasons why she decided to quit softball, where she was a three year varsity player for cycling.

“One of the biggest things for me has been that the cycling community as a whole has been really supportive and really welcoming to me because I have been so new to the sport,” Ellison said. “What I’ve enjoyed the most is training with and being mentored by members of the U.S. National Team, specifically Missy Erickson, who is the fastest [female cyclist] in the United States. I’ve also trained with members of the Trinidad and Tobago and Canada National Teams. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.”

To raise money for her transportation to and from races and her gear and training costs, Ellison has a page. On her page, she says that her three major goals are to become the Junior and Collegiate National Champion in all sprint events, stand at the top of the podium at Junior World Championships and attend all National Track Calendar Races.

“For me, track cycling began as something I merely did on the side, [but] it has turned into something I am now pursuing to the highest level,” Ellison says on her page. “I never could have imagined that I would be the only junior female in the country dedicated solely to track sprinting that currently trains with former and future Olympians.”