Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT grad Kelsey Mitchell wins Olympic gold in track cycling

How  Mitchell earned her medal – and her unique nickname

In 2018, when track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell was training at Edmonton's Argyll Veldrome Association, head coach Alex Ongaro saw enough talent in her to know she was destined for big things. “Once I saw her, right away I knew her potential,” he told techlifetoday.

Ongaro considered Tokyo 2020 a possibility for Mitchell. But, "her chance for the following Olympics [Paris, 2024]," he said, "is very, very good."

“Once I saw her, right away I knew her potential.”

None of this is to say that Mitchell was underestimated. Rather, it's that what she has achieved is so extraordinary.

After trying track cycling for the first time in 2017, the NAIT grad (Instrumentation Engineering Technology ’16, Personal Fitness Trainer ’17) has gone on to amaze the world by winning gold during her Olympic debut in Tokyo, in women's cycling sprint.

As proof of that amazement, we've gathered stories from across the web about Mitchell's achievement, an extraordinary journey to winning what is only the second gold medal in Olympic track cycling in Canadian history.

Admirable aggression

To start, watch the video below. Don't miss that admirably aggressive moment around 1:30 where Mitchell declares her intentions by swooping down from the top of the track to the inside position during the speed-building laps.

That big smile at 2:15 is pretty great, too. Mitchell took the best-of-three series of races against Olga Starikova of Ukraine in two straight, winning gold. 

“I really, really wanted [the final] done in two," Mitchell said. "And I got it done in two which is rare for me because I usually end up going to three. That was the cherry on top."


Those legs

Mitchell's bulging leg muscles are a big part of the reason, as CBC's Mark Connolly said in the video above, "she's proven to be one of the most powerful women in the world on a bike." You'd be forgiven for thinking their wattage output could light up a city block:

 
In light of her physique, Mitchell's teammates gave her what dailyhive.com called an "endearing" nickname: Quadzilla.

The road to Tokyo


“I honestly didn’t know that much about this sport,” Mitchell told techlifetoday.ca in 2018. It's almost just luck that seh ended up in it at all – as well as some existential uncertainty.

From a more recent techlifetoday story: "I was never the most talented on the soccer field, but I worked hard and made up for it with my athleticism. I played three years at NAIT and went travelling for three months, then came back and had a mid-life crisis," says Mitchell.

"I wasn’t ready to be done with sports. I’d heard about the RBC Training Ground – essentially, an Olympic combine that compares you to national-team benchmarks across 11 different sports." One of those, of course, was track cycling.

Enormity of the achievement

Mitchell's win is Canada's first since the 2004 Olympics, where Lori-Ann Muenzer took gold in the women's sprint in Athens. The country, notes Canadian Cycling Magazine, was united in congratulating her.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by John Tory (@johntory)


Closer to home, Carole Holt, Mitchell's former NAIT Ooks women's soccer coach, had this to say:

"I am truly so very happy for her. She was a great student athlete while she was at NAIT (she played soccer as well as basketball in her first year), and she was a team captain and a great teammate.

"She is a super person and she deserves the success she has achieved."

"Most importantly, she is a super person and she deserves the success she has achieved. Cycling Canada is lucky to have her as part of their team and she will be a great ambassador for their sport for many years to come."

Tokyo and beyond

 

Mitchell came home to a "champion's welcome," CTV News reported.

“It’s amazing,” she said after arriving at Edmonton International Airprort to family, friends and fans. “My legs were just vibrating as I came down the stairs and saw everyone. The community behind me, the support is how I got this [gold medal].”

Now, as there is no rest for the talented, what might we expect next of our local cycling phenom?

For insight, the Edmonton Sun looked to the experiences of Muenzer, who had this advice for Mitchell:

"Hang on for the ride. Go out and enjoy every single moment."

"First, I’d tell her to take a little bit of time off. If you haven’t already written out your next game plan both for on and off the bike, make sure you do this. ... Write your next three-year game plan in detail," said Muenzer.

Then, “Hang on for the ride. Go out and enjoy every single moment."

It's that latter bit of wisdom that will likely lead to Coach Ongaro to being proven right. Come 2024, chances are "very, very good" we'll all be cheering on Mitchell as she rides in Paris.


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