Last weekend Olympic gold medalist Kelsey Mitchell (pictured above) took the women’s 500 m time trial at the Canadian national cycling championships at the Milton Velodrome. Despite all her success – in addition to the Olympic gold in the sprint she took bronze at last year’s world championships and gold at the 2019 Pan American Games – Mitchell didn’t start cycling until she was 23. A former varsity soccer player for the University of Alberta, when she graduated she took part in RBC Training Ground (a talent identification program) and was selected by Cycling Canada, who saw her potential as a track cyclist.
At the time Mitchell didn’t even have a bike. A year later she took the 2018 national sprint title. A year after that Mitchell won the Pan Ams, and two years later became the Olympic champion.
Now triathlon has joined the nationwide talent ID program along with 13 other sports in the search for potential Olympians.
“The search is on to recruit Canada’s next Olympic and Paralympic triathlon heroes to build our pool athletes who will help continued our tradition of excellence well into the future,” said Phil Dunne, high-performance director, Triathlon Canada. “RBC Training Ground provides us another opportunity in our national recruitment strategy to attract new athletes who have reached their limits while competing at an elite level in a sport other than triathlon (ie. running, cycling, swimming). We look forward to working with RBC Training Ground to identify athletes and help them build on their high-performance foundation, maximize their potential in the triathlon development pathway.”
Participants in the program “perform speed, strength, power and endurance benchmark testing” and the top 30 athletes are selected as “RBC Future Olympians to receive funding, mentorship and other resources to pursue Olympic dreams,” according to a release from Triathlon Canada today.
Triathlon ID success
It certainly won’t hurt for triathlon to be part of the program. American triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, was recruited by USA Triathlon through a program that identified strong runners with a swimming background. Last year’s surprise Ironman world champion, Chelsea Sodaro, also came from a running background.
“Thirteen athletes who were discovered and funded through RBC Training Ground have competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, bringing home a collective seven medals,” according to teday’s release. “Among them are program alumni Jerome Blake (Silver Medallist in Athletics – Relay 4x100m), Kelsey Mitchell (Gold Medallist in Track Cycling – Women’s Sprint) and Marion Thénault (Bronze Medallist in Freestyle Skiing – Mixed Team Aerials), the latter two of whom did not have experience in their Olympic sport before attending an RBC Training Ground event.”