Holly Edmondston’s path has been anything but easy. The former St Kevin’s College pupil speaks to Kayla Hodge about the volatile aftermath of the Tokyo Olympics, getting back on the bike, prioritising her happiness, and doing things her way.
Holly Edmondston has a revitalised energy. After back injuries, endometriosis surgeries, and pushing herself to the brink mentally and physically to get to the Tokyo Olympics last year, the Waimate cyclist is enjoying prioritising her happiness, and doing things her way now.
And her new mindset played a part in her success at the recent national time trial. After a nearly six-month break from professional cycling, Edmondston was ‘‘shocked’’ to place third, after going into the race with no expectations.
‘‘I just don’t know how I pulled that out,’’ Edmondston said.
Edmondston has decided to prioritise her health and happiness, instead of putting pressure on herself at every competition. After securing a bronze medal, she knew her new approach was working.
‘‘It’s just like another little stepping stone that like helps me understand . . .I’m doing things right.’’
Life post Olympics had been ‘‘volatile’’, she said.
Edmondston — who placed eighth in the team pursuit and 10th in the omnium — said the build up to Tokyo was five›years of grovelling, pain and suffering, with some good times, and a lot of bad times.
After the Olympics, she took time off to re›evaluate her life and understand what was important. Despite being told to start training again a ‘‘long, long, long’’ time ago, her head and body told her no.
She wanted to follow her heart and naturally make a decision on her future, without outside pressure. Eventually, she decided she was not prepared to go through another build up to a pinnacle event like Tokyo’s.
‘‘But I do want to be a cyclist and I want to try it my way.
‘‘I’m a lot behind the [other cyclists] in terms of fitness, but I think in terms of happiness, and direction, and autonomy, I think I’m really high up there now. That’s something you can’t just reach, it had to happen the hard way.’’
She returned home to Waimate for Christmas, did some ‘‘epic’’ mountain bike rides around the South Island with her boyfriend, Mark Hazelton, and the pair moved into their new home, in Cambridge.
It gave her an opportunity to ‘‘hit the reset button’’ and she was happy to finally have a place to call come after moving 13 times in eight years.
‘‘I had this huge sense of like relief, and pride, and just happiness. For once, just having a place to call my own.
‘‘I think that has been a really huge struggle over the last eight years that I’ve been up here, just like no family around me, always moving houses . . . that was a huge shift for me personally and I know I’m pretty lucky in terms of that.’’
Another change came in the form of a new cycling mentor — Jim McMurray.
McMurray, a world masters cycling champion, reached out to Edmondston to check in on her after the Olympics. When Edmondston told him she was struggling, and needed to separate herself from Cycling New Zealand to learn to ride again, they teamed up.
They had been working together for the past month, and it had been a ‘‘huge change’’ in her life.
‘‘I think that’s a key message — if you’re not feeling comfortable in an environment or you feel like you need to change something up, don’t be afraid to do it.’’
For the next few months, Edmondston’s focus is getting her mental health right, doing things that fulfill her, and spending more time with friends.
The sudden death of her friend, fellow New Zealand cyclist Olivia Podmore, last year had a profound effect on Edmondston, giving a new perspective on what was important.
‘‘It shocked me into that [mindset] like, ‘holy crap . . . cycling isn’t it, it doesn’t even matter’.’’
She made a conscious effort to look out for her friends, as building relationships was far more important than being fit, she said.
On the track, she is determined not to put pressure on herself or let others’ expectations weigh her down.
‘‘You put so much pressure on that one thing to bring you up which isn’t going to happen because nine times out of 10 you’re not going to win.
‘‘For me it’s about re-prioritising what’s more important out of a race . . .to get there happy in the first place, so when you do or don’t get there, it’s not the be›all and end›all, because that’s exactly what happened at the Tokyo Olympics.’’
Another bust year lay ahead for Edmondston, who had her first track session since the Olympics last week.
In May, she will compete at the Union Cycliste Internationale Cycling World Cup in Canada, and then at the Tour of America’s Dairyland.
This year’s Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham, are ‘‘on the horizon’’, and her end goal was to make the Paris Olympics in 2024, she said.
But she was determined to get there on her own terms.
‘‘I don’t want to be sitting there like I did in Tokyo and be like, ‘S***, was it all worth this pain and suffering?’.
‘‘I want to get anywhere in the future by doing it with my values intact.’’