Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Lea finds road back to Olympics

Ever since Bobby Lea returned from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the American cyclist has had one goal in his mind: The 2012 Olympics in London.

The 28-year-old's goal was accomplished in mid-June when he was selected to once again become a U.S. Olympian.

"Absolutely everything I've done, from planning out the race and planning out the training, has been with a four-year plan towards getting back to [the Olympics]," Lea said. "The steps along the way are too numerous to count but basically everything I've done since I got off the plane from Beijing in 2008 has been with an eye towards London."

Lea is competing in the Omnium, his marquee event, which takes place over two days, Aug. 4-5. The Omnium is considered as the cycling equivalent of a decathlon and features six different styles of races. Lea won gold in the Omnium at the 2011 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships.

At the 2008 Games, Lea finished in 16th place in the Madison, which is a two-man relay race, but is expecting a better finish in the Omnium in London.

"Anything outside of the top 10 would be a disappointment," Lea said, "but with the way training is going, I could be a dark horse and slide into a top five. ... I'll certainly be heading to London with a better idea how to cope with all the extra stuff that comes along with the Olympics."

Lea's parents, Robert and Tracey, and brother, Syd, live in Taneytown, and all three plan on accompanying him in London. Syd Lea won three gold medals in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens.

Bobby Lea is originally from Easton and now resides and trains in Topton, Pa.

Lea also said that he is more comfortable with going to the Olympics, now that this is his second trip, but it will still be different than his first time.

"The big thing is relative familiarity with the Games themselves, and obviously each Olympics is unique, as a unique event, but there are certain elements that you understand now after competing in an Olympics." Lea said. "You understand the ... excitement that comes along with the Olympics and that's something that's really hard to comprehend before you experience that first-hand and see what the Olympics is all about and experience that excitement, the Olympics buzz."

Lea's father, Robert, also said he thinks the experience will benefit his son this year. Robert Lea is a former Olympian himself, as he was an alternate oarsman for rowing at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

"To be coming back a second time, I think he's able to be much more focused on the competition," Robert Lea said. "I'm just so proud and impressed with his skill and competitive drive. Cycling is a very complex sport. ...The way he's mastered it, it's just really impressive to me."

Focus will be big for Bobby Lea in the Olympics, which begin July 27 with the opening ceremonies. Lea even said that he and his teammates are waiting to leave for the Olympics the day after the ceremonies, to avoid losing any energy or encountering any distractions.

"The opening ceremony is a very physically draining event and it comes too close to our competition to be able to take that kind of a hit," Lea said.

"We're going in at the last possible minute to give us just enough time to recover from the travel, recover from the jet lag, and really just keep the blinders on and focus on the task at hand."

Bobby Lea has already seen, and competed on, the track that he will be racing on in London at an Olympic test event in February, and said that'll be one less new thing that he will have to encounter in London.

"Having raced on the track, having seen the facility, being able to visualize what it's going to look like when I walk in there on race day," Lea said, "it's one less thing I'll be experiencing for the first time."

Although Lea has competed in the Olympics before, and is familiar with the event and track, he said that there is still pressure he will face in London.

"The pressure at an Olympics is always the same and every athlete that goes there is under a lot of pressure ... just from the enormity of the Games," Lea said. "I get the nerves and excitement because it's an honor to race on the Olympic stage. It's an honor to represent my country at the biggest sporting event in the world."