Towards the end of her university career, where she excelled in soccer and track and field at the University of Lethbridge, Sarah Orban, 23, knew she wasn’t done with sport just yet. In the back of her mind, she always thought she would follow a path to the sport of skeleton.
It was at a skeleton discovery camp that Orban was turned on to RBC Training Ground, a talent identification and athlete funding program designed to uncover athletes with Olympic potential. Orban took on the challenge and won the 2017 Alberta Regional Final. After that, everything changed.
Orban initially expected to dive into the sport of skeleton, but after giving it a try she felt she could maximize her talents in a sport more suited to things like speed, power and endurance, which ultimately led her to cycling.
“I like pushing myself harder physically in cycling,” says Orban, who was also recruited to try rugby. “I like the challenge and fear factor of being on the track.” Orban says that switching to cycling reminded her of what athletic abilities she has, and she wanted to use them to the fullest.
Her coach, CSI Calgary’s Cycling Development Lead, Tanya Dubnicoff, is now tasked with developing those talents on the track.
Dubnicoff describes a pie chart to illustrate all of the different physical capacities of an athlete, including such things as strength, endurance and power. Of Orban, Dubnicoff says she already has excellent capacities such as speed, explosive power and speed endurance, which are beneficial in the sport of track cycling.
“Sarah’s chart is full,” declares Dubnicoff. “The only thing she’s missing is technical skill on the velodrome.”
The primary focus of Orban’s training then, is learning – and mastering – those skills so she can learn to effectively ride a bike. “We’re working on things like acceleration and understanding bike dynamics,” explains Dubnicoff. For Orban, that translates into constant focus on a smooth pedal stroke and figuring out how to handle the bike.
Thanks to the long, frigid winter in Calgary, so far that has meant creative sessions on the sprint lanes at WinSport, where Orban and fellow RBC Training Ground athlete, Courtney Farrington, work on riding a fixed-gear track bike. When the snow finally melts, they will be able to shift training to Calgary’s outdoor velodrome.
Orban will also participate in an upcoming training camp in Milton, Ontario, where she will train alongside Canada’s development endurance team. The first big test will be a track event in June in T-Town – a professional cycling centre in Pennsylvania. “Progress is key,” says Dubnicoff. “Sarah works hard and at this point we just don’t know how hard to go yet.”
Orban struggles to find the words to describe her feelings on the bike. “I don’t think about it too much,” she reflects. “I like going fast. I feel free riding. I just black everything out, it feels really good.”
With her heart now firmly set on cycling, Orban knows she has her work cut out for her, and it’s only just begun. The technical work with Dubnicoff, conditioning work like weightlifting, and more time on the bike and the track will ultimately test her capacity for hard work and determination to achieve her dream of making it to the Olympics.
Orban is excited to see where this journey will take her. “I’m still learning every single day,” she says. “I’m really happy with the sport I chose and the path I’m on.”
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto