By Scott Orban
What surprises me about my daughter’s road to the Olympics?
I guess the whole thing surprises me.
My 24 years old daughter Sarah Orban is on the National Team for Track Cycling. When she was little she had a bike, but she never rode a bike in her late teens and up until last year she hadn’t owned a bike, let alone rode one. Now she has her sights on competing at the Olympics in Paris 2024. It has caught me off guard, not her talent, just how things evolved.
Let me explain.
My name is Scott Orban, I am the proud father of three children, two boys who play hockey at the elite level and of course Sarah. I played professional hockey for years overseas and when my wife Shelly and I had children, we wanted our kids to experience sport.
Sarah has always been athletic and played soccer for most of her life. She was on track to play out her career at the university level, until a chance opportunity with RBC Training Ground changed her life forever.
She wasn’t even sure she would attend the event and at the last minute decides to go. She not only wins the event in Lethbridge but proceeds to win the regional event in Calgary and gets scouted by five National Teams, who are interested in her. From rugby 7’s to skeleton, bobsled, track, and cycling; she decides on cycling.
As a parent, it’s incredible to see her so happy, so engaged and so focused. But as a parent who competed at the professional level, I know sport comes with pain. I see both my boys live it. Sport hurts. That is what makes it so worthwhile when you accomplish something because of all the dedication, sacrifice, and work you put into it. You grind and grind and hope things work out.
I saw that this year for Sarah at Nationals, and I am not going to lie, it was excruciating as a parent to watch.
My wife and I accompanied Sarah to Cycling Nationals this year as she had not yet made the National Team and was vying for a spot. This was back in September when she was just one of their developing hopefuls.
Right out of the gate on the first day of nationals, she wins a bronze in the 500 metre, edging out another national team member. That was a win.
In the afternoon, she pairs with another national team member (Kelsey Mitchell) and they win gold in the team sprint against two other national team members. So we’re celebrating like crazy thinking she’s on track!
Day two she competes head to head against a former Olympian, Katie O’Brien in Match Sprint. In the best 2 out of 3, Sarah wins match one. Match 2 O’Brien comes from behind to win in a photo finish. Sarah loses by two one thousands of a second.
Onto the final race of the match, Sarah waits, holds back, holds back, holds back and then O’Brien makes a move only an experienced track cyclist could make and she wins the race. Sarah is out.
We go from being on top of the world to being out.
Feeling like sh*t.
There goes her chances of making the national team. The highs and lows of sport I was talking about, and there was nothing as a parent I could do about it.
Sarah goes to talk to the head coach and my wife and I sit and stew about it, thinking it’s bullsh*t. She lives in Calgary, has no place to train, no velodrome, how can they expect her to compete with an Olympian who knows what she’s doing?! The two of us go through the ‘parent stages of grief’. This just isn’t fair.
Sarah then walks back over from talking to the coach, sits next to her Mom and says she made the team. Simple as that.
And just like that, we are back on top and our fabricated thoughts are in the wind.
So we are now living through her highs and lows of sport and helping support her however we can on her Olympic journey.
Truthfully, I wish that she would have believed more in herself earlier; or did this just make her stronger? I always believed she was special and that there was something out there for her. I hope she continues to surprise everyone like she did winning a bronze medal at her first National Championship after being on a bike and competing for less than a year.
My greatest hope for her and for all my kids is for them to be happy. For Sarah, I want to see her live her dream and make it to the Olympics. I know her. I know her passion, her dedication, and her fierce determination and I know if she doesn’t get there, she won’t be happy.
But I also know that regardless of future outcomes she will always be grateful that she has had the opportunity to compete. Just as we are grateful that we get to share every moment of this ride with her.