In Conversation with Amelia Walsh

Amelia Walsh

Amelia Walsh was the Canadian BMX Women's Champion title holder in 2013, 2014 and 2015. After the 2016 BMX Season she switched to track cycling and is now a track cyclist for Team Canada.

For our second Zvelle In Conversation we collaborated with our friends at CAN Fund to celebrate three phenomenal Canadian athletes. Read Elle’s interview with Amelia below.

Elle: What was your first experience with a bike and how old were you?

Amelia: I was fifteen when I first started. My brother was riding with some friends and I was bored and someone said “here’s a bike”. I held it and went for it. I have a competitive side and people said I was very good at it and that I should take it up. A year later I was on the provincial team.

Elle: That’s impressive. You are 26 now. When you were fifteen years old did you ever think you’d make a career out of this?

Amelia: I just went with the flow. I was very active with sports and wanted to go to university for basketball. I was also a gymnast at the time which is still one of my biggest passions so I was just doing it for fun and didn’t think anything would come out of it.

Elle: What was it like having a brother in the same profession and few years ahead of you?

Amelia: My brother and I are really close and it’s quite a special bond. We moved out to Vancouver together in 2013 to train with the national team and one of our biggest goals was to try to win the gold medal at the same time. So we pushed each other. He is a very talented bike rider and he is always trying to get me to do stuff and push me out of my comfort zone. It’s really good to have him around.

Elle: You’ve been in this career for eleven years now, what’s been your biggest challenge?

Amelia: Professionally probably was not making it to the Olympics in Rio. I had broken both my hands three months out and had to still qualify at world championships. And I actually had to race the world championships with a broken hand to try qualify and I missed out by a few slots. So that was pretty devastating as I was training four years for it and it was so close and so far at the same time.

Elle: How did you break your hands?

Amelia: I was at a world cup in Manchester, England and I was doing my last round of practise and I don’t even know what happened but I was knocked out and I went over the bars like superman onto concrete. I broke both hands!

Elle: How did you manage to race with broken hands?

Amelia: I knew there was something wrong with my one of my hands and that it needed more attention than just healing so I hid it from my doctors. When I was practising, I would just tape it up and my training was absolutely horrible. I don’t think I’d cried so much in one chunk of time before. When I got to the race in Columbia I actually convinced myself that the cortisone shots to my hand worked, which they didn’t. I told myself that I can’t feel anything. I taped it so that it would cut the circulation off in my hand so when I was racing I wouldn’t feel it at all and when I got across the finish line I would take the tape off. I had convinced myself that I did not feel pain. And as soon as the gate dropped I knew I wouldn’t feel anything and I just had to go.

Elle: You’re in the public eye and your successes and lessons are very public. What have you learned from these public highs and lows?

Amelia: I’ve had more failures than I’ve had successes. Success didn’t come for me until I switched over to track cycling and it came pretty fast. Dealing with a lot of failures in BMX set me up to succeed in track cycling. I still have a long way to go but I’ve seen some success which keeps me going. Everyone wants the gold medal but at the end of the day it’s the process and continually challenging myself that drives me to do what I do every day.

Elle: What quality do you have that has enabled you to sustain this positive attitude?

Amelia: I think just the way I was brought up. My parents were extremely supportive and they gave me the leeway to do whatever I wanted to. After high school, I went straight into university and I hated it. I was there for four months and then I dropped out because I wasn’t an athlete anymore, I was a student. I didn’t like that and it was the first time being an athlete had been taken away from me. I’ve been an athlete growing up my whole life and I think that attitude had developed at a very early age with the support of everyone around me.

Elle: What is it about being an athlete that you are so passionate about?

Amelia: I think the biggest thing is that it’s my job and I feel extremely grateful that I get to get up in the morning and put sweat pants on and go train until I can’t walk anymore and then come home and sleep. It’s a dream come true to be able to do what I do and I feel I need to take full advantage as I know it’s not going to last forever.

Elle: Is the mental training aspect of the race more important than the psychical?

Amelia: I think it’s more important than the physical aspect because if you don’t believe in yourself when you get up on the line then you’ve already lost before the race has even started.

Elle: Who inspires you?

Amelia: My teammates inspire me the most. In the last two years two of my teammates suffered brain injuries. It makes me think that this could be taken away from me at any point in my life and that inspires me to do my best every single day.

Elle: Is the mental training aspect of the race more important than the psychical?

Amelia: I think it’s more important than the physical aspect because if you don’t believe in yourself when you get up on the line then you’ve already lost before the race has even started.

Elle: Are there any particular challenges female athletes face?

Amelia: There are a lot of body issues in society and especially when it comes to female athletes. Everyone always has a lot to say about the way female athletes look. For example they say female athletes look manly just because they’re muscular. They forget that female athletes look the way they do for a reason and that’s because of what they are working towards.

It’s never really bothered me a lot but people always say I look muscular. In high school I was bullied. We look the way we look because we have a job to do and in order to do that we need to look this way. After our sports careers, we can look more feminine.

I am a confident person and I like the way I look. I know who I am and I am training my body to do what I want it to do. I don’t care about people who make comments about my body.

Everyone is different and if you are doing what you love then you have a goal and you need to do everything you can in order to reach that goal. And if that’s looking muscular then you’re going to have to accept that and you have to accept that people are going to have their own opinions. If you’re confident in yourself then that’s the only thing that matters.

 

Credits: Zvelle shoes. Top image: Zaha (Oro), second image: Zaha (Oro).

Photography: Mark Binks

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