IZU, Japan — Kelsey Mitchell didn’t own a bike four years ago.
The 27-year-old track cyclist from Sherwood, Park., Alta., nevertheless won Canada’s final medal of Tokyo’s Olympic Games with a gold in women’s sprint.
Mitchell beat Ukraine’s Olena Starikova in two straight heats to capture the title, riding out front and never relinquishing the lead. Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong took bronze.
Mitchell produced Canada’s 24th medal, which is the most at a non-boycotted Summer Olympics, and beat the 22 earned in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
She is the second Canadian woman to win track cycling gold in an individual event following Lori-Ann Muenzer’s sprint gold in 2004.
She’s is a former university soccer player who attended an RBC Training Camp qualifier in September of 2017.
Training Ground is the creation of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Olympic Foundation, CBC Sports, national sport institutes and the bank sponsor.
The goal of the program, open to athletes between the ages of 14 and 25, is to widen and deepen the pool of high-performance athletes by recruiting them from all levels of different sports.
Their speed, power, strength and endurance are measured via a series of tests, which are then made available to national sports federations.
A Cycling Canada recruiter witnessed Mitchell generate 1,300 peak wattage on a stationary bike wearing running shoes, without the aid of clip-in shoes.
Thus began Mitchell’s meteoric rise in track cycling. She won sprint gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, within a year of donning the skin suit adorned with the Maple Leaf.
She also set a world record in the women’s flying 200-metre sprint in Bolivia during the Pan American track cycling championship that year.