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Regina’s Erica Rieder chasing Olympic dream after lifetime in hockey

Click to play video: 'Regina’s Erica Rieder chasing Olympic dream after lifetime in hockey' Regina’s Erica Rieder chasing Olympic dream after lifetime in hockey
After three years playing professional hockey overseas - a Regina product is hanging up her skates and coming back to Canada in order to pursue a childhood dream. Taylor Shire has more on Erica Rieder and her journey to the podium. – May 18, 2022

After playing hockey her entire life, Erica Rieder is hanging up her skates in order to pursue a lifelong goal.

“I’ve always had the dream of going to the Olympics,” said Rieder. “At first it was, of course, go with Hockey Canada but that hasn’t panned out so I feel like I’m a good enough athlete to make the transition to a different sport.”

For the past three years, the Regina, Sask., product has been playing hockey in Sweden with MoDo Hockey, alongside many Olympic-caliber players.

Read more: Athletes compete at Kelowna event aimed at identifying future Olympians

Prior to heading overseas, Rieder was an outstanding defenseman at the University of Manitoba, where she won a national championship in 2018. During her time with the Bisons, Rieder was also named to Team Canada’s roster for the FISU World University Games in Kazakhstan, her first time representing her country.

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“I got a little taste of it and it was an amazing experience,” said Rieder.

Now, Rieder is leaving the sport she knows so well, in order to try and wear the maple leaf once again.

She recently attended the RBC Training Ground talent identification camp, which is designed to find athletes with Olympic potential. There, evaluators determined Rieder’s athletic ability would be best suited in track cycling or rowing. In fact, the 25-year-old recently went to Milton, Ont., to the high performance track-cycling centre, where she got a taste of what she could be in for.

“That was a crazy experience,” said Rieder. “A banked, wooden track at a 45-degree angle and no brakes on your bike – it was crazy but I really enjoyed it.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s Kelsey Mitchell wins gold in women’s track cycling at Tokyo 2020 as family cheers her on' Alberta’s Kelsey Mitchell wins gold in women’s track cycling at Tokyo 2020 as family cheers her on
Alberta’s Kelsey Mitchell wins gold in women’s track cycling at Tokyo 2020 as family cheers her on – Aug 8, 2021

And as she changes sports, Rieder’s mind is somewhat at ease, knowing that the path is possible, since others have done it before, including former University of Alberta soccer player Kelsey Mitchell, who also attended the RBC Training Ground and went on to win gold at the Olympics in track cycling.

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“That sort of sparked the interest and I was like ‘maybe I could do that’ so that’s the plan,” said Rieder. “I’m getting out of my comfort zone for sure, but I think that’s a healthy thing to do. I think I need to push myself in new ways and I think cycling will do that for me, so I’m excited.”

Read more: Kelsey Mitchell wins gold for Canada in women’s track cycling sprint

While leaving the game of hockey to pursue another dream wasn’t an easy choice, it was a decision that she thinks is worth it.

“It’s been a tough transition but I know that the regret of not trying to pursue this Olympic dream would be harder than giving up hockey,” said Rieder. “I feel like it’s now or never to make this transition.

“I know I would probably have five or six more years with hockey but I think there’s a timeline on this dream, just because of my age, so now’s the time and I think I can do it.”

Click to play video: 'Former Kingston hockey player is lacing up his skates with a new goal mind' Former Kingston hockey player is lacing up his skates with a new goal mind
Former Kingston hockey player is lacing up his skates with a new goal mind – May 3, 2022

While she’s working toward earning a spot on Team Canada for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Rieder is acutely aware of the short window in which to achieve her goal. Willing to be patient and put in the work, she knows she might have to wait until the next Olympic cycle.

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“The goal is the Olympics but I have to be realistic,” said Rieder. “I have to make the national team first.

Read more: RBC Training Ground searches for next Canadian Olympians

“Just focusing on getting better every day,” she said of her mindset. “I’ve heard from the coaches that I have the body type and the strength that you need for track cycling, so it’s just learning the skill of the sport.”

She hopes to have her vision fall into place, sooner or later.

“It sounds scary to say it to be honest, but I think that is the dream, to be on top and have a medal around my neck,” said Rieder.

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