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Alumni Feature: Former Ooks Soccer Player And Pan Am Gold Medalist

Kelsey Mitchell breaks world record in track cycling

By Kaytlyn Poberznick

From the Ooks soccer pitch to the Olympic cycling track, Kelsey Mitchell’s dreams are unfolding into reality.

Winning gold in the individual 200m cycling sprint at the 2019 Pan American Games, she’s looking forward to other goals she can accomplish once regulations open up.

“I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, if everything goes as planned. I have big goals for there,” said Mitchell.

“I’d love a medal, but my main goal is to just go and have the best performance of my life. If that’s fourth place or first place we’ll find out, but definitely doing everything I can to make it a first place finish.”

Discovering cycling

Her experience with cycling started off a little rocky. The opportunity arose to start cycling due to a broken collarbone in her fifth year of eligibility at NAIT. The inability to play other sports during her healing period opened the door for cycling as a means of rehabilitation. Once Mitchell had the chance to start cycling on an actual track, she fell in love with the sport.

“At first cycling was something I did when I couldn’t play soccer, basketball or volleyball just due to injury, so I would sit on a stationary bike. So my relationship with cycling wasn’t really a positive one until I finally got on the track and started going fast. I fell in love with it,” remarked Mitchell.

Kelsey Mitchell celebrates breaks track cycling world record Pan American Championships in Cochabamba Bolivia
Kelsey Mitchell celebrates breaking 200m cycling world record at the 2019 Pan American Championships in Cochabamba Bolivia | Photo supplied by Kelsey Mitchell

Being an athlete that primarily only played team sports, Mitchell had to grasp onto the new atmosphere of individual athletics. Knowing that you have no one to rely on during race time other than yourself meant she had to continue to hold herself accountable for her own training.

“If you slack off it’ll show on race day and if you work hard it’ll show on race day. You have yourself on the track versus your opponent and your team is in the pit, not on the track with you racing,” said Mitchell.

“In soccer if you mess up you have ten other people to have your back. It definitely took some adjusting.”

Knowing that her fifth year of collegiate sports was supposed to be her best, Mitchell had to overcome her hardships.

Mitchell took the time away with injury to reflect on the ways she was training and it became a mental turning point for her athletic career.

“I was mad at myself that when I was healthy I wasn’t taking advantage of it and I wasn’t training to my fullest potential. I wasn’t eating the right stuff, I wasn’t getting the right sleep, so once I broke [my collarbone], a switch went off and I stopped taking being healthy for granted. Since then, I’ve worked really hard to stay in shape and keep [up my health]. It was a good learning experience,” said Mitchell.

Looking back on her time at NAIT

Mitchell gained many different skills from her time at NAIT and took advantage of all the opportunities she was given.

“Seeing how tough it was to balance the school and sports life definitely helped prepare me outside of [NAIT],” said Mitchell.

“Now that I have totally immersed myself into my sport, I am still able to find the balance of connecting with my friends via facetime and [balancing] life and sports together. I can thank NAIT for that.”

Kelsey Mitchell
Mitchell on the NAIT women’s soccer team in 2014 | Photo via Facebook

Mitchell’s experience with NAIT was different than any other. Redshirting with the women’s basketball team and having amazing successes with the women’s soccer team, Mitchell’s college sports career expanded beyond just the pitch.

“Winning provincials three times and going to nationals… I definitely wouldn’t change anything,” Mitchell said.

After graduating at NAIT, Kelsey’s vision was straight forward: travel, come back, settle down and get a job. Having gotten sick during her travels, she missed a job interview and it’s because of that luck that she is now able to pursue her dreams.

She believes everything happens for a reason.

“Life just has a funny way of working out. I came back and was pretty lost. I luckily got a summer job and [realized] I wasn’t done with sport, [so I took] one last try competing at a high level and it ended up completely changing my life,” Mitchell said.

“I have personal training and instrumental engineering technology to fall back on when this is all done, but I definitely didn’t know when I graduated that this is where I’d be. I’m definitely living my dream right now as a full time athlete.”

Having extra down time this year during training sessions, Mitchell finds herself using the breaks to train her mind as well as body.

“I’ve gotten really good at [resting],” said Mitchell.

“It’s a skill to learn how to rest, because when I first [started], I always wanted to do something.”

Looking forward

Mitchell’s future goals are skyward. Being a world record holder in her sport, she has lots of pressure to hold that top spot. She is nowhere near her peak, and the amount of growth that is still ahead for Mitchell is endless.

“I want to continue on in this sport. Hopefully Paris 2024 as well for the Olympics. We had the goals of competing back in July at the Olympics. Obviously that didn’t happen, so [I changed] my mindset and just everyday I’m trying to show up at training and give my best and be better than the day before, so those are little goals that I have.”

Mitchell loves what she does and being able to do it everyday is something hopes to continue to do for many years to come.

“I’m healthy, I’m young. Everyone said I was old when I joined this sport, but I feel good. I take care of my body, I do what I’m supposed to do. Hopefully I can carry on with this for as long as I can.”

Kelsey Mitchell
Photo via Getty Images

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