By Zachary Flynn
On September 5, Kelsey Mitchell set the new world record for 200m Sprint in Track Cycling at the Pan American Championships in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
This world record comes one month after she won herself a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. She took home gold in the 200m sprint – the same event she would later cycle in world-record time. Mitchell also secured silver in the Women’s Team Sprint in Lima.
Mitchell’s time on the women’s soccer team in the 2015/16 season at NAIT was cut short due to a broken collarbone, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to train. If anything, the injury pushed her to work harder.
“I was absolutely devastated hearing the doctor say I would miss the rest of my season. But I think it was kind of a turning point in my athletic career. I realized I had taken for granted being healthy and being able to train,” said Mitchell.
Three weeks later, she was able to start running and jumped at the opportunity to get back into training.
“I try to remember this experience and take it with me throughout life,” said Mitchell. “Every day I am healthy and able to train, even if the training is so hard it makes me want to vomit, I am grateful.”
Mitchell’s transition to track cycling came in 2017 when she was named an RBC Future Olympian and was set to train with Cycling Canada. The shift from playing soccer with 10 other teammates on the field to being by herself on a bike was a major change for her.
“Mentally, I had always played team sports and was used to working together for a common goal, but with track cycling, it is very individual. You are out on the track alone, you versus your opponents. It definitely took some getting used to,” said Mitchell.
Not only was it a mental shift, her legs needed to get used to a completely different style of sport.
“Physically, soccer is more of an endurance sport, and switching to a strictly power-based sport wasn’t easy. I had to learn to use all of my energy, strength and power in less than 30 seconds. I was used to trying to maintain my energy over a 90-minute period,” she said. “At first, I knew very little about track cycling. I had heard of it and that’s about it. When Cycling Canada first did testing on me in Ontario, it was the same time as Track Nationals…so I got to see some racing.
Initial thought: easy sport – pedal hard and turn left. I learnt very quickly how wrong I was, and that this sport was not easy,” said Mitchell.
Competitive cycling comes with its own pros and cons, but Mitchell loves the lifestyle she has.
“I still can’t believe I get to wake up every day and go train or compete. I get to travel the world and represent Canada,” said Mitchell. “It’s pretty amazing.”