Catharine Pendrel and husband Keith Wilson are expecting a baby in February, news the prolific cross-country mountain biker announced on Friday on social media.
“That was one of the coolest things when people messaged me on Instagram and Facebook – other people sharing just how much joy kids have brought to their lives,” said Pendrel, a Kamloops resident who turns 40 on Sept. 30. “It’s amazing. I totally didn’t expect that response. It also makes it fun. It’s fun to be able to finally share it.”
The couple’s first baby is due on Feb. 3, leaving Pendrel with about six months to take a run at the Olympic Summer Games (held in 2021, but carrying the 2020 title), which are scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8 in Tokyo.
Pendrel and Haley Smith occupy the two spots expected to be available for female Canadian cross-country riders at the Games. They are the only two women who have satisfied Cycling Canada criteria for cracking the Olympic squad.
Two World Cup events in 2021 are expected to be scheduled prior to the May 30 cutoff for Olympic qualification, the final two opportunities for Canadian riders to meet Cycling Canada criteria and unseat Pendrel and Smith.
“I’m sure having peak form for the final selection events of 2021 will be a little bit out of … we’ll still be in a process of working toward that,” said Pendrel, an Olympic bronze medallist, two-time world champion and three-time World Cup series champion.
“But, hopefully, if another rider doesn’t finish on the podium at the first two World Cups next year, then the spot would still be mine and it would be determining for myself whether I felt like I have the form that I would want to have in July, but that’s six months later, so I’m pretty confident I could be there.”
Pendrel’s original plan was to cap her competitive career by competing on the 2020 World Cup circuit and at the 2020 Olympics.
The postponement of the Games and alteration of 2020 World Cup racing, including rendering it meaningless in relation to qualification for Tokyo, appear to have made it possible to start a family while still keeping Olympic dreams alive.
“A family was on the radar. I turn 40 in a couple days,” Pendrel said. “I had planned on retiring after this season, but yeah, with the pandemic, it definitely shook things up a bit and I was like, well, you don’t know how long it takes, so maybe we should try now and, yeah, it worked.
“I’m fortunate that my professional team is supporting me next year and my husband is able to take paternity leave, so we can actually be able to train and have a child and manage all that. Those support systems are fantastic.”
Pendrel has two great resources close to home in Okanagan-based athletes Sonya Looney, a world champion enduro rider who gave birth in March, and Kikkan Randall, a mother, Olympic gold medallist cross-country skier and cancer survivor.
“Those are two amazing, phenomenal women I can chat with about it,” Pendrel said.
"You have to recognize you can’t train right now at the level you’re used to. It's just staying fit and healthy and doing what's right for right now, always working with changing variables, staying optimistic you can do your best, but being adaptable to whatever life throws at you."
The baby started kicking on Friday morning.
"That was kind of a neat experience," Pendrel said. "There are lots of things to look forward to.
“I wasn’t always one of those women who is like, ‘I’m going to have a baby and a family,’ but I also never wanted to rule that out."