Comfort found in the little things

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Holly Edmondston has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The Waimate cyclist chats to Kayla Hodge, from managed isolation, about competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and returning to unexpected news in New Zealand.

Holly Edmondston found comfort in the little things during her stay in managed isolation.

When the Waimate cyclist returned to New Zealand from the Olympics, spending two weeks in isolation at Christchurch’s Sudima Hotel, it was a toasted sandwhich that provided hope.

Her brother, Eli, who was working as a security manager at the facility, sent it her way “out of the blue”.

“He’s been really cool to have around – it feels like I’ve got a bit of family close by,” the Olympic cyclist said.

Comfort was what she needed following a tough couple of weeks.

After competing at the Olympics, placing eighth in the team pursuit and 10th in the omnium, Edmondston received the news her friend, and fellow New Zealand cyclist, Olivia Podmore, had died suddenly, aged 24.

Podmore’s death had been really tough to process while in managed isolation, Edmondston said.

“The first few days went real quick because everything was such a blur.

“Everyone’s trying to help, and do as much as they can. It’s just this environment, it’s not the best to be grieving in.”

There had been plenty of phone calls, and the athletes, who were good at dealing with tough situations, were being open and transparent to support each other.

Edmondston (24) had her own experiences with depression, and she was “not afraid to say it”.

“It’s just a normal part of life I think, especially in this day and age,” she said.

“If anyone is seriously dealing with mental issues, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Being from a small town … it’s not the end – there’s a whole world out there.”

Days before returning home, Edmondston was on the track in Tokyo.

She finished 10th, out of 21 cyclists, in the omnium, and manoeuvred her way through a major crash in the opening scratch race. Several cyclists were injured, but Edmondston, following Chinese cyclist Jiali Liu, managed to move to the top of the track out of harm’s way.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Liu heading high.

“I was like this crash, I’m going straight into you honey, so you better move’.”

Edmondston said she was always conscious of her other riders.

When she was being “squeezed” at the front of the pack before the crash – ”you can feel the tension in the bunch as you’re racing” – she opted to drop back. The decision ultimately saved her from injury.

“I’m not so hellbent on a race to perform well if it’s going to put other people in jeopardy. I just believe everyone should get their fair shot at it, and a lot of people didn’t get their fair shot after that.

“For some of them that crashed in that scratch race, that’s their omnium over. That’s five long years of hard work all over.”

Earlier, Edmondston was eighth in the team pursuit, alongside team-mates Bryony Botha, Kirstie James and Jaime Nielsen.

While the team was not expecting to finish last, they were “not mad about it”, she said.

“We’re questioning it, because we should have been way better than that. I think a few of us didn’t turn up on the day, and that’s something that’s really hard to control.

“You have to live and accept that, and hope in the future we can create a race where everyone is feeling absolutely on fire.”

The team still recorded three personal-best times, which was “awesome”, but it was just unfortunate they were the “wrong times at the wrong places”.

The performances may not have been what she envisioned, but attitude was what mattered the most.

“We were there for each other, and it felt really good.”

It was that type of attitude she believed was the “Olympic experience”.

“I never want it to overrule who I am, I want an experience to add to your life, not make your life revolve around it.”

Edmondston left MIQ on Tuesday, and returned to Cambridge to be with her partner and cats in Level 4.

Once lockdown was lifted, she planned to take a break from cycling for the next few months, and enjoy mountain biking, snowboarding and being with friends and family.

Next year, she will head overseas for some road races, before preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.