Article Written By Brigitte Rec
Photo Courtesy of USA Cycling
With a whirlwind of a cycling career under her belt, Olympic cyclist and ‘03 Roanoke College alumni, Shelley Olds, is excited and inspired to be making a return to her alma mater to coach the women’s soccer team alongside Phil Benne.
As a previous Maroons soccer player herself, Olds pushed her desire of playing D1 soccer aside to come to Roanoke College in 1999. Making a last minute decision to enroll, Olds quickly found her place on campus with the women’s soccer team. Taking the team by storm, Shelley was a 4-time All-ODAC selection, NSCAA All-South Regional, 2002 ODAC player of the year, and Roanoke’s all time leader in scoring at 98 points. Olds looks back on her college career with fond memories of the team dynamic, she reminisced, “The team became a family to me and soccer allowed me to balance my time, it kept me responsible.”
After earning her degree in Health and Human Performance, Shelley returned home to her family in California and continued to dream of reaching the Olympic soccer team. Upon developing achilles tendonitis, Olds picked up cycling as a way to stay in shape as well as a means of transportation when traffic got bad. Shelley admitted, “I had never rode a bike before.” However, it didn’t take long for her to develop speed day by day as she rode into work.
Starting small on a cycling team, Shelley worked her way up to international standards and raced in countries like China, Qatar, Argentina, and Spain. Olds would raise money through her team to fund her trips and race entries. Realizing cycling was a small niche sport that she was successful at; Shelley decided that she wanted her cycling career to take her to the Olympics, the 2012 London Olympics to be exact.
Qualifying for the USA Olympic team after her first place performance at the 2012 World Cup in China, Shelley’s childhood dream had finally come to fruition. She remarks, “I have never devoted so much time and sacrifice like I did before the Olympics.” In her rainy 140 kilometer race in London, Olds had held a top position before her tire flattened, sending her behind a pack of riders. Pushing her limit and determined to make up lost ground, Shelley finished seventh in the world, a proud moment for herself as well as for the Roanoke community.
Coming back to the steady pace of RC is what Shelley deems she “needed so bad.” Though cycling had welcomed her to a new world of competing and a professional lifestyle, her latest concussion ended her racing days and opened her up to the career of coaching.
Enthusiastic about next year’s plans for the women’s soccer team, Olds is placing a lot of faith in the younger girls on the team. She’s looking forward to watching them grow into their team leadership roles, much like she did during her career at Roanoke. Shelley goals are also twofold, “It’s important to me to help girls grow and learn and be better, not only in sport but in life.”
With confident plans about her future, Shelley Olds is returning to her stomping grounds with a smile on her face. She adds, “To be here, where I have so many great memories, it feels like I’m coming back to see my family.”