Though not unheard of, it’s still a shock when the ending of a professional sports race is too close to call – and at the Olympics, no less! Not that 23-year-old cyclist Simon van Velthooven is complaining. His photo finish with Dutch athlete Teun Mulder in the Men’s Keirin event at the London 2012 Olympics netted him a bronze medal, which he dedicated to his home country of New Zealand. Van Velthooven spoke to KS about the race, his future, and a return visit this month to Japan to compete as a guest keirin racer.
KS: What kind of competition are you expecting in Japan this fall? Will this be your first time competing in the country?
Simon van Velthooven: I raced in Japan in 2010. I learned a lot, and the racing helped me win the Olympic bronze. This year, I’m much stronger and wiser. I cannot wait to race.
KS: After your Olympics win, do you think the other racers will work much harder to beat you?
SV: I know as an Olympic medalist I’ll be a marked man. But I train hard to race strong and smart.
KS: Japan keirin races aside, what is your next big goal?
SV: A World Championship title. Then the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
KS: Your Olympic finish was extraordinarily close. Will you and Mr. Mulder be looking to settle things more decisively the next time you race each other?
SV: Teun and I are good friends. We’ve raced together in Japan before and he’s very strong. I do wish to settle things with him at our next UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) race, though.