One of the most incredible careers in Canadian Olympic history came to an end this week with West Vancouver’s Georgia Simmerling announcing her retirement from competitive sport.
Simmerling’s truly unparallelled athletic journey took her to four Olympic Games in three different sports, including appearances at both the Summer and Winter Games. She also suffered numerous gruesome injuries along the way, always fighting back to not only get back in action but to reach new heights, culminating in an Olympic medal showing in track cycling at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
The 32-year-old made her final Olympic appearance this summer in Tokyo, helping Canada finish fourth in women’s team pursuit cycling, setting a new national record in the process.
"I am thrilled to end my career on such a strong note," said Simmerling in a release. "I personally left the Tokyo Games feeling very satisfied with how I rode and had absolutely no regrets. I felt ready to close this chapter of my life and move on to new adventures.”
Simmerling’s sporting career started on the slopes. She spent four years on Alpine Canada’s ski racing team, getting her first taste of the Olympic Games in 2010 in Whistler, where she competed in Super G. After four years on the alpine team, Simmerling switched to the rough and tumble world of ski cross. A crash in 2012 left her with three broken vertebrae, but she returned in time to race ski cross in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
She then made an unprecedented switch to track cycling and made history in 2016, becoming the first Canadian athlete to compete in three different Olympics in three different sports. In Rio, Simmerling claimed her first Olympic medal, winning bronze in track cycling team pursuit.
Simmerling was all set to switch back to snow to compete in her fourth Olympic Games, in 2018 in South Korea, but her ski cross dreams were dashed in a nasty crash in her final World Cup race before the Games. Simmerling broke both her legs after falling hard in the semifinals of an event held at Nakiska in Alberta.
That crash led to her retirement from competitive skiing. But she battled through a gruelling rehab again and earned her way back onto the track cycling team for her final Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
“Sport has been my entire life. And I couldn’t be more grateful for where it has brought me, who I have met, and the experiences I’ve had,” Simmerling wrote on her Instagram account Tuesday. “I am so incredibly grateful to so many individuals who have supported me along the unique, twisty turny path I’ve taken.”
Though she has now hung up her bike and skis, she has not been idle since the end of Tokyo. Following the Games, Simmerling got engaged to her partner, who is also a world-class athlete – Canadian national team soccer goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Simmerling gave Labbé a ring not long after the world-class keeper earned a gold medal with the Canadian national team in Tokyo, playing a starring role in a string of tight shootout victories.
Simmerling is relocating to France, where Labbé plays with professional soccer club Paris Saint-Germain. Simmerling hinted that her next chapter in life will still be involved with high-level sport, with more details coming out later this month.
“I am thrilled to announce my retirement from sport and share what I have been working on,” she said. “All I can say for now is it’s time to invest in women’s sports, and I’m looking forward to being part of the change."