Ruth Winder’s grandparents are going to have a hard decision to make this week.
Root for their granddaughter and the powerful American women’s pursuit team when the track cycling program begins at the Rio Olympics or side with national pride and pull for the Brits.
“They better cheer for me,” Winder said with a smile.
You see, Winder was born to cycling parents in Britain and moved to the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She began racing competitively as a teenager and was immediately hooked, winning two elite national titles and getting chosen for two elite world championship track teams.
Now, she has teamed with Sarah Hammer, Chloe Dygert, Kelly Catlin and Jennifer Valente to form perhaps the most potent pursuit squad at the Rio Games. The team won the world championship in record time earlier this year and begins Thursday’s competition as the heavy favorite for gold.
AP Photo/Tim Ireland
Maybe it was fate that Winder would take to the track.
The British squad is arguably the best in the world, top-to-bottom, and their women’s pursuit team is the reigning Olympic champion. They beat a much different U.S. team in the finals four years ago.
Despite their success, and the vast resources at the British team’s disposal, Winder said she has never wondered what it would be like to ride for any other team. She’s spent 17 years living in the U.S. and is American through-and-through, proud as anybody to represent her county.
“I’ve been to England quite a lot and I still have a tiny bit of the English accent, but I’ve been living in Northern California for so long, the U.S. feels like home,” she said. “USA Cycling takes good care of us. I’ve never been in a position to feel jealous.”
If Winder and the U.S. capture gold, perhaps the cycling-mad British fans will feel a bit jealous.
Just not Winder’s grandparents, she hopes.