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Life in the Saddle Part 5 – Olympian Monique Sullivan’s Guide to Riding and Racing

courtesy of Monique Sullivan

August 11, 2016 – Monique Sullivan started bike racing at the age of 12, and chased her Olympic dream for the next 11 years. It wasn’t easy. At the age of 23 the hard work paid off and Monique proudly joined Team Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. Against the best track cyclists in the world, she finished 6th in the Keirin (a track cycling event where cyclists follow a motorized pacer before sprinting to the finish). It was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and the roller coaster ride that is high performance sport.

 ©  courtesy of Monique Sullivan
Following the Olympics, Monique took two-years off the bike to work on her mechanical engineering degree. She recently returned to racing, and in her words, she’s “having more fun than ever on the bike.” In this 5-part series, Monique describes what it takes to make to become an Olympian and shares some advice about the journey. In Part V, Monique provides some important advice on landing and maintaining sponsorship opportunities. If you missed Part IV, check it out here.

Sullivan is a multi-time national champ and took home three golds from the PanAm 2015 Games; placed 4th in Women’s Keirin on the final day of 2015 UCI Track Worlds in France; won bronze in the Keirin at the World Cup in New Zealand in Dec. 2015; placed fourth in the Team Sprint with Kate O’Brien at the World Cup in Hong Kong in 2015; set a national Team Sprint record on the Mattamy Homes track in Milton, ON in July 2016 before heading to the Games; she’ll race the Keirin, the Sprint and the Team Sprint in Rio. – ed.

 ©  courtesy of Monique Sullivan
Part V: Securing and maintaining sponsorship

Asking for money can be hard and uncomfortable, but racing bikes is expensive. When I was about 15-years-old, I made my first sponsorship proposal package that included my grades, my extra curricular activities, a budget, photos, and reference letters. I started circulating it to my parents’ friends and our neighbours. At first I would obtain small sums, but eventually, through the help of my network of friends, I secured an incredible sponsorship that helped me through many years of racing. Fundraising options have increased since those days, and there are many online options. Here’s some basic advice:

  • Remember that people are sponsoring you as a person, not just an athlete. Don’t be afraid to share all the cool things about yourself, and not just the cycling stuff.
  • Many people may want to help and be part of your success, but not everyone is able to give you cash. Be open to support in a variety of ways, such as help constructing a solid portfolio, Aeroplan point donations, or even help with cooking.
  • Who doesn’t like getting mail? Send postcards and say thanks to those who support you. There are many people behind the scenes who make it possible for you to succeed, so try to say thank you to as many of them as you can.
  • Ensure your sponsors feel like part of the journey. Your daily routine may seem boring to you because you’re used to it, but many people dream of being athletes and something as simple as your pre race meal could be very interesting! Follow athletes you look up to on social media to get ideas of how they include their supporters in their journey.

Thanks for reading Monique’s Life in the Saddle series. An archive of the entire 5-part series can be found below. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 Life in the Saddle Part 1Part 2  Part 3Part 4

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