Whether in skating or cycling, success has followed Caicedo

Whether in skating or cycling, success has followed Caicedo

By Angela Powers

With all the accolades Jennifer Caicedo collected in her first year on the King University cycling team, it's not likely that one would guess cycling is a sport she's barely familiar with.

But the Colombia native grew up racing on a different kind of wheels: skates.

Caicedo owns seven world championships - including a world record - in inline speed skating, a somewhat unknown sport to North America that has gained massive popularity in areas with warmer climates not conducive to ice skating, especially in South America.

The King sophomore collected all seven of her world titles between 2003 and 2008 in competitions all over the world, taking gold in the 500m in Venezuela 2003, the 300m and 500m in China 2005, the 500m and 200m in Korea 2006, the 200m in Colombia 2007 and the 200m in Spain 2008.

As if seven world titles wasn't impressive enough, Caicedo set a world record in her two-gold medal performance in Korea in 2006.

By finishing the 500m in 43.478 seconds, the former skating standout holds the fastest women's time for the 500m in the world.

All these accomplishments stem from Caicedo immersing herself in the sport at a very young age.

"My mom gave me skates when I was four years old, and I just loved it," said Caicedo of how she got into skating.

"In my family, there aren't a lot of athletes, but I was a very active child, so I guess I just wanted to move and do something. Plus, I'm so competitive, so I guess that's why I liked (skating) so much."

Inline speed skating is a sport that closely mirrors its sister sport, ice speed skating.

There are different events of varying lengths from short sprints to mile-long races which can either be on a smooth-surfaced track or the road. Caicedo dominated worldwide in short-distance races.

These world-renowned skills took her to competitions and championships all over the globe.

"It was amazing to travel," Caicedo said.

"The years that I was skating were good, because I had the opportunity to see places around the world. I was everywhere.

"I didn't know too much about every country, because we were focused on the races, so it was hotel to race, hotel to race, and back, but sometimes we took some time to look around where we were, and that was great.

"You don't have those opportunities doing a lot of things, but skating gave me that opportunity," she added.

After bouncing around the globe, collecting championships and medals, Caicedo found herself at King University with the opportunity to challenge herself in a whole new way: by mastering a sport almost completely foreign to her.

While skating was a part of Caicedo's life since age four, cycling was only used as a mechanism for training for the skates.

"I was doing cycling, but just for training for skating, because it's good for skating. I cycled about two or three days per week, but I never did a race in Colombia," said Caicedo about her familiarity with the bicycle.

That all changed when Julian Cabra, an old skating friend of Caicedo's, peaked her interest in cycling for the Tornado.

Cabra, also a native of Colombia, transitioned from skates to the bicycle to compete at King University in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons.

"My friend Julian used to be an inline skater when I was in Colombia many years ago," said Caicedo. "We were about 10 or 11.

"He called me one day, and told me about scholarship opportunities here, and I was already thinking about not skating anymore, so I talked to him, and he was so excited about me coming here to cycle."

The monumental move and sport transition turned out favorably for both Caicedo and the Tornado, as she helped King to top finishes on both the conference and national stages.

Even with how successful Caicedo's first season competing in cycling turned out, the sophomore was apprehensive about stepping into a new sport, wondering if she could find her niche in the cycling world as she did in skating.

"In the beginning, I told (Cabra) I have never done cycling before, so I don't know if I'm good or not, but he said he knew I could do it," said Caicedo.

That affirmation from Cabra gave her the push to take up the challenge and compete in her first race.

"He knew I could do well, and he trusted me so I came here, and I started to race, and I won my first race.

"Then I thought that maybe I could do it, so I kept going, and then I started school here. It has been really hard because it's a different sport that I have never done before, so I am learning a lot, all the time, every day. I'm doing well, I think."

"Doing well" is an understatement for the cyclist who collected several top finishes in the 2013-2014 season.

Last season, Caicedo took second in the criterium at USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals after fighting through a crash and flat tire, helping King finish a program-best fourth.

She won the women's A category criterium at the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships, helping king to their second straight conference title.

Caicedo also won the road races and finished second in the criterium at both the Milligan race and the Western Carolina race and won the cyclo-cross race at Georgia.

Although Caicedo has closed the book on her skating career, she said many aspects of inline speed skating have spilled over into her adaptation to cycling.

"Physically, I have everything I need to be a very good cyclist from skating," she said. "I just have to get familiar with the bicycle and with the races.

"I already have the strategic thinking, because in skating you use a lot of strategies, so that is good for cycling too. Also, my mentality is already very positive from all the success I had with skating."