It’s the summer of 1978. My family has taken us upriver to Baskin’s beach for a weekend at a relative’s cottage. I was seemingly the only boy in the kids’ group and I’d exhausted all water sports that I knew or was capable of. My sand laden toes gripped the worn floor as I strode past my aunts and uncles playing likely their hundredth game of euchre, when I glimpsed at the Canadian athletes competing in that summer’s Commonwealth Games. I watched memorable performances from pentathlete Diane Jones-Konihowski and diver Janet Nutter but nothing would prepare me for the display of cyclist Jocelyn Lovell.
The cottage had a small colour tv, unlike the multiple shades of grey at home. I watched Lovell seemingly burst from the track peloton as from a cannon and win the gold medal in the 10 mile scratch race with ease and unknowingly inspire this nine year old to take up cycling as his new passion. His simplistic yet distinctive light blue jersey with bright red maple leaf on the back crossing the line in victory was an image that would be ingrained with me forever.
A year or two later my father took me to a criterium race. We heard Jocelyn would be racing. We finally see him as the nervous riders toed the start line unclipped. There was the legend Jocelyn Lovell, pedaling circles 20 meters behind the bunch with not a care in the world. I was struck by his calm, almost carefree demeanour as the gun went off.
Thank you Jocelyn. Thanks to you I wanted to be a cyclist. Thanks to you I wanted to represent my country and wear that maple leaf on my back. Thanks to you I saw that I could compete and not be a nervous wreck before the start. Thanks to you that cyclist became my hero. RIP.