Track Cycling

Mitchell taking Tokyo Olympic Games pause in stride – Timmins Press

Sherwood Park’s Kelsey Mitchell has had a meteoric rise in cycling reaching Olympic level status in just three years in the sport. Photo by Rob Jones/Canadian Cyclist

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It took a global pandemic to put the brakes on Kelsey Mitchell’s rapidly rising Olympic cycling pursuit.

The 26-year-old Sherwood Park product looked to be a lock to be chosen as part of Canada’s cycling squad for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games after adding to a growing list of accomplishments in the sport with a pair of medals at a World Cup event earlier this year.

But her dreams were dashed when Canada announced it would not be sending its athletes to Tokyo in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, shortly before an announcement came that it would be a moot point as the Games were pushed back to 2021.

“Initially, hearing the news, I was very upset,” said Mitchell, a Sal Comp grad. “I have been training 100 per cent for this for the past two years, so to see Canada say that they wouldn’t be attending in 2020, that was obviously upsetting. But then finding out that the Olympics was officially postponed the next day, that was a huge sigh of relief. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the Olympics were still taking place and Canada wasn’t going. To find out it was postponed, that was definitely the right call with what is going on in the world right now, there is no way the Olympics could happen. I was upset at first, but this is bigger than sports. Getting everybody healthy again and flattening the curve, that is the main priority.”

As far as Mitchell’s podium prospects, this might actually not be a horrible thing, seeing the Games pushed back a bit.

After all, she has only been in the sport for a little over three years and was already a legitimate medal threat for Tokyo.

Sherwood Park’s Kelsey Mitchell is hopeful that the current pause in on-track training won’t slow her future progress. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn/Canadian Cycling Magazine

After playing soccer in college at NAIT and the University of Alberta, Mitchell attended the RBC Training Ground program, which tests Canadian athletes on their power, speed, endurance, and strength. While there, various national teams have their eyes open for potential talent, and she caught the glimpse of a representative from Cycling Canada, who had her do more specific testing for that sport and then offered to bring her into the national team program, training full-time out of Milton, Ont.

Mitchell’s first big success was at the Pan-Am Games last summer in Lima, Peru, where she won the gold medal in the 200m cycling sprint. Mitchell’s gold medal sprint timed in at 10.89 seconds, smashing the previous Pan Am Games record of 10.98 seconds. She also added a silver in the team sprint at the Pan-Ams.

She then set a world record in sprint at the Pan-Am Cycling Championships in Bolivia in September for gold and added a second top podium pacing in the team event. She made it three medals with a bronze in the keirin.

At World Cup stops this season, she won a bronze in Hong Kong and a silver in New Zealand.

Most recently, Mitchell struck for a gold medal in the team sprint and added a silver in the individual women’s sprint at the UCI Track World Cup Canadian stop at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton.

Although she hadn’t officially been named to the Canadian team as they were set to announce the cycling squad in May, Mitchell was an awfully safe bet.

Considering her meteoric rise on the cycling track, will she be even better with another year of training under her belt?

“Taking a step back, this could be a blessing in disguise,” Mitchell told The News. “I get an extra year to get more comfortable on the bike and to fine-tune some of my skills, to get stronger in the gym. So do the rest of the other athletes in the world, but I definitely don’t think I have reached my full potential yet. Another year is definitely not the worst thing for me.”

The hard part has been doing her training indoors, as the velodrome was off limits in Milton, where Mitchell chose to remain and ride out the social distancing measures.

“The first week, it was very up and down,” she said of her emotional state. “Having another year, some people went home, but I like the routine of training. I love training. I am still motivated and can still improve a lot with the practice equipment. I have my numbers and can measure my power and cadence and everything. I am just competing with myself week to week. I miss the social interactions, but I have been FaceTiming with friends and family back home. It is a weird way of living right now, for sure, and I hope it doesn’t last forever. But I have adjusted to it, for sure.”