Having been an athlete most of her life, Sarah Orban, a fifth-year University of Lethbridge student majoring in kinesiology and psychology, isn’t intimidated by a seven-day-a-week training schedule.
On the fast track to train for Canada’s Olympic track cycling team, Orban trains weekdays in her hometown of Calgary and then travels to either Burnaby, British Columbia or Milton, Ontario to train on an indoor velodrome on the weekends.
“The first time I went on the track I felt like I was going to fall over on the bike,” she says. “I kept trying and, as I saw improvements and figured out that I could actually be really good at this sport, I decided that this was the sport for me.”
Her journey from competing with both the Pronghorns women’s soccer team and the track and field team to the velodrome had a few twists and turns. Because of her speed and lower body strength, her father, Scott Orban (BA ’90), a former Pronghorns men’s hockey player, suggested she might make a good bobsledder. Three years ago, she took up his suggestion and went to a Team Canada recruitment camp for skeleton and bobsleigh.
“They recruited me because I met the national standards,” she says. “I’ve been in contact with their recruiter ever since I went to the camp. My plan was to finish school and then put my focus into skeleton.”
The recruiter sent Orban information about the RBC Training Ground program, an initiative of the Canadian Olympic Committee, CBC Sports and RBC to identify the next generation of Olympic athletes. Training Ground held qualifiers in five provinces to identify athletes for 11 national sport organizations.Orban signed up for a qualifier held last March at the U of L and succeeded in becoming one of 100 athletes from across Alberta chosen to participate in the final held in Calgary in May. Her performance led to her being named RBC Training Ground Alberta regional champion.
“I won the entire event,” she says. “Part of the contest was that all the winners from the finals go on a trip to the Olympics this year. I’m still mind-blown about it — to travel across the world and get to see the Olympics.”
Following the final in Calgary, Orban was recruited by the rugby, skeleton, cycling and track and field national organizations. She did more specific testing in the first three and narrowed her choice down to skeleton and cycling.
“I ended up choosing cycling and I’m happy about my decision,” she says. “The whole goal is to fast-track us to the Olympic team. I’ve never been on a bicycle for anything competitive before now, so right now it’s baby steps. I’ve seen lots of progression in the last few months so it’s going good.”
While she’s training with her coach, former Olympic track cyclist Tanya Dubnicoff, Orban will also work on completing the requirements for her degree by taking four applied studies courses. Eventually, she plans to go into sports psychology.
Orban leaves Feb. 9 for PyeongChang to attend the Winter Olympics for a week.