SFU student wins bronze medal at Olympic Games

By Alison Roach

Jasmin Glaesser, a third-year computing science student at SFU, had the opportunity to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, and won a bronze medal for her race in women’s team pursuit cycling.

When Glaesser, a Coquitlam native, started cycling at the age of 17, she never imagined she would make it to the biggest competitive stage in the world. A former runner, she had several injuries and turned to cycling as a sport that would be kinder on her body. After borrowing an old mountain bike in the summer of 2008 from her father, SFU computing scientist Uwe Glaesser, Jasmin bought herself a road bike as a high school graduation present and started to get involved.

Of her beginnings in the sport, Glaesser says, “When I started, I never even considered making it to London.  It wasn’t even really a goal, because it didn’t seem realistic.” However, after she started cycling, Glaesser quickly found support from Cycling BC, the provincial governing body for the sport of cycling in British Columbia. Later on, and closer to the Olympic games, Glaesser says, “The [Canadian Cycling Association] National Team and all its associated coaches and staff provided a program for us athletes to really be able to excel, with the help this year of Own the Podium and the Road to Excellence program.” Fast forward to this year, and Glaesser has already won medals at the world track cycling championships in Melbourne, Australia, and at the World Cup in London, with her teammates Tara Whitten and Gillian Carleton.

Glaesser spent the year prior to the Games training with the National Track Team in Los Angeles, where they had access to an international-caliber velodrome and were surrounded by support staff. Says Glaesser of the experience, “While it was sometimes a challenge to be away from home for so long, I think it really allowed us to focus on the job at hand and to become a really cohesive and close knit team.” Trials for an Olympic spot were held in June, and Glaesser was named to the team.

The only significant bump in the road on her journey to the Olympics was qualifying to compete for Canada. Glaesser has lived in Canada for most of her life, but was born in Paderborn, Germany. A year ago, Glaesser still did not have Canadian citizenship, and so was ineligible to compete for Canada. “It was definitely an agonizing wait for my application to get processed . . . I finally became a citizen last September, and looking back I think the experience just gave that much more of an appreciation for what an honour it is to represent the maple leaf.”

Along with Whitten and Carleton, Glaesser travelled to London to compete. Their event, team pursuit cycling, is a 12-lap race between teams of three. In the first round, the Canadian team lost to Britain, but were fast enough to qualify for the race for bronze. Glaesser describes herself as being on autopilot just before the final round, but admits that “I remember being really excited and motivated.  It was at that moment that it kind of sunk in that we were in the Olympics and fighting for a medal!” In the final race, the Canadian team beat out Australia with a time of 3 minutes and 17.915 seconds to win the bronze medal.

The response back home has been huge. Glaesser says that the outpour of support and congratulations came as a bit of a shock after the extreme focus of London.  For Glaesser, “The best part though is having been able to give more exposure to track cycling so hopefully more young athletes become motivated and involved.”

For now, Glaesser is heading back to school this semester, where she hopes to major in computing science and minor in mathematics.  As for competitive cycling, she says, “Although I’m excited about what we’ve achieved so far, I think we have so much potential to still grow and improve. For myself, I am also looking to concentrate on road racing for a bit, so Rio is for sure on my mind.”