Biography:

Tara Whitten initially hoped to go to the Olympic Games as a cross-country skier. She competed at the 2005 FIS World Championships, but grew frustrated after not being named to the 2006 Olympic team. Already using cycling as cross-training, she was convinced to try it full time. Torn by the decision, because it meant she would miss a chance to compete at Vancouver 2010, she began training seriously as a cyclist in July 2007. By 2009 Whitten had transformed into an elite rider and won world championship silver in the omnium. A year later she was world champion in both the omnium and the points race. She also won four medals (one gold, three bronze) at the 2010 Commonwealth Games where she competed in both track and road events and was named Canada’s Closing Ceremony flag bearer. In 2011 she won her second world title in the omnium. Finally making her Olympic debut at London 2012, Whitten won bronze as a member of the team pursuit and finished fourth in the omnium. Having taken a two year break from her academics to prepare for London 2012, Whitten took two years off from cycling after the Games to complete her PhD. Upon her return, she focused on road cycling, in which she’d placed fourth in the time trial at the 2011 UCI World Championships. She won time trial silver at the 2015 Pan American Championships.  While on an orientation trip to Rio in March 2016, Whitten rear-ended a small bus during a bike ride on the day before flying home. A CT scan in Calgary showed she had fractured the base of her skull where it joins the top of the spine. After wearing a neck brace for almost three months, she finished second in the time trial at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau just one week after its removal.

GETTING TO KNOW…

Family: Parents David and Deborah Whitten… Younger brother Alan… Getting into the Sport: Became a competitive cyclist at age 27… A friend had always told her she would be a natural fit for track cycling instead of cross-country skiing… Outside Interests: Completed her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Alberta, defending her thesis in January 2016… Looking for a post-doctoral position after Rio 2016… Completed her undergrad (major in biological sciences) at the University of Alberta in 2007… Aspired to a career in neuroscience after reading Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works in high school… Odds and Ends: Role model is Beckie Scott for her sportsmanship, anti-doping advocacy, and dedication… Favorite quote: “Some people run to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts” – Steve Prefontaine…