Keely Track Nats 23 1130x600
Team USA
National Championships

Keely Ainslie Prepares to Showcase Her Skills at the 2023 USA Cycling Track National Championships

By: Jim Rutberg  July 03, 2023

Keely (Kortman) Ainslie and team are ready to put their skills to the test after setting new records at the Pan American Championships

With the Paris Olympics just a year away, the nation’s top track racers and emerging talents will converge on the Velo Sports Center in Carson, CA on July 5-9 for the 2023 USA Cycling Track National Championships. Fresh off a series of strong competitions at Nations Cups and Pan American Championships, the resurgent Track Sprint Program is looking to build on their momentum as they progress toward the Olympics. USA Cycling caught up with Keely Ainslie, a sprinter on the team that recently set a new US National Record for the 750-meter Team Sprint (48.009 seconds) at Pan American Championships, as she and her teammates prepare for National Championships.

From BMX to Track Cycling

Keely Ainslie started racing at 5 years old on the BMX track and progressed to the pro ranks in 2010 at the age of 16. Her introduction to the track came in 2017 as the result of an NBC Sports television program called “The Next Olympic Hopeful.” The show sought to expose athletes to new sports that might leverage their existing talents. BMX and track racing are complementary cycling disciplines, so it was perhaps understandable that Ainslie excelled on the velodrome and won the The Next Olympic Hopeful competition.

Success on the track followed. In 2019, Ainslie earned silver medals in the Team Sprint and 500m Time Trial at Track National Championships, and fourth place podium finishes in the Match Sprint and Keirin events.

When COVID-19 shuttered velodromes and halted competitions, Keely and her fellow track cyclists in Southern California searched for resources to continue with their training. A non-profit called the American Sprint Cycling Program was created and raised money to support athlete development through the pandemic. “We were grateful for donations from people who supported us to stay in California,” Keely said, “We needed to be here so we could train on the wooden 250-meter track as soon as it was open. We wouldn’t have been able to stay competitive without that.”

Once the pandemic restrictions eased and competitions resumed, Keely quickly returned to podium performances. She again earned silver medals in the Team Sprint and 500m Time Trial at 2021 US Track National Championships, plus another fourth place podium in the Match Sprint.

New Staff Brings New Focus… and Results

In 2021, Olympic silver medalist Erin Hartwell returned to USA Cycling to lead the Sprint Program. Hartwell, who earned silver medals in the 1000-meter time trial in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, brought not only a wealth of technical and training knowledge, but also a deep understanding of team culture and how to build a high-performance training environment.

More recently, Craig Griffin returned to USA Cycling as Senior Track Director in January 2023. He brought 33 years of elite coaching experience leading Track Endurance programs for USA Cycling, U.S. Paralympics, Canada, Japan National and Olympic Teams.

The Track Program also brought on Antonio Squillante, PhD, CSCS*D RSCC, as the Strength and Conditioning Coach. “Antonio is new and he’s been a great addition,” commented Keely. “He’s insanely smart. He’s in the gym with us, he personalizes workouts for people to help them individually. We didn’t have that before. And for me, it’s worked. I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”

When asked about current state of the Track Sprint Program, Keely said “I think we’re in a good spot and personally I don't think I've ever felt more confident. The staff we have now are all looking forward, and they’ve helped establish a more elite mindset. We’re going into events more prepared mentally and physically, which results in a lot more confidence as a team.”

National Championships

In 2023, Keely Ainslie earned her first medal in international competition, a bronze as a member of the Team Sprint at the Pan-American Championships in San Juan, Argentina. She’s hoping to follow up that result with her first USA Cycling National Championship. She’ll have three chances, in the 500-meter Time Trial, the Match Sprint, and the Team Sprint. “I really like the standing start events, like the 500-meter and team sprint. Coming from BMX, I gravitate toward the shorter events and doing the first lap in the team sprint and working with my teammates is really fun.”

Keely is also looking forward to competing on her “home track,” the Velo Sports Center in Carson, California. “Having Nationals indoors, on a wooden 250-meter velodrome is just a different feeling than being on an outdoor velodrome. The noise and the lights and everything elevates the experience. For big races, they turn all the lights on, so it has a different feel compared to even when we train on the same track.”

Track National Championships in California will be even more of a homecoming for Keely because her sister, Larkin Kortman, will be competing for the first time at a track national championship as a junior. “She lives in Woodland Park, Colorado, and the velodrome in Colorado Springs recently re-opened. So, she’s been able to go and do the sprint nights and omnium races. She was going to come to Nationals anyway, but she’s definitely more excited about it now that she’s been able to spend more time preparing on the track in Colorado.”

Click here for more information on the 2023 USA Cycling Junior, Elite, and Para-cycling Track National Championships.