How well do you know some of Team Canada’s Tokyo 2020 hopefuls?
As we gear up for upcoming Olympic Games, let’s take the time to know who Team Canada athletes are outside of the field of play. Are they aspiring artists? A new parent? Dabbling in another sport during their free time?
Every Friday, we’ll be adding a new athlete to this list that you can follow on social media. If you do, in no time you’ll be an expert on Canadian athletes and ready to cheer them on as they compete on the international stage.
Getting introduced to gymnastics at 8-years-old, Rosie MacLennan won Canada’s only gold medal at London 2012. She performed the most difficult routine of the competition to earn a career-high score of 57.305 points for Canada’s first-ever Olympic trampoline gold medal. MacLennan made history at Rio 2016 when she became the first trampolinist to ever win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
MacLennan is a graduate of the University of Toronto currently pursuing her masters in Exercise Science. She also enjoys snowboarding, skiing, and wakeboarding when she doesn’t find herself preparing for her fourth Olympic Games. MacLennan is the Vice-Chair of Team Canada’s Athletes’ Commission.
Being a self-proclaimed “natural born climber”, Sean McColl’s Olympic dreams became possible during the summer of 2016 when it was announced that sport climbing was officially added to the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020. As president of the IFSC’s Athletes’ Commission since 2012, McColl advocated for his sport by making multiple presentations to the IOC, hoping it would lead to sport climbing’s inclusion at the Olympic Games. McColl secured his spot to Tokyo with a 10th place finish in the combined event at the 2019 IFSC World Championships.
As of February 2020, McColl has earned 34 World Cup medals, with the majority in lead climbing, followed by bouldering. McColl also loves to challenge himself with unique workouts that he shares on his social accounts for anyone who wants to spice up their workout routines!
Looking to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, Claudia Holzner was 8-years-old when she had her first artistic swimming lesson and has been hooked ever since. Holzner has competed in the team event for Canada at the Toronto 2015 and Lima 2019 Pan American Games winning gold both times. In 2017, Holzer began partnering with Jacqueline Simoneau in the duet event and together they secured gold in Lima.
When she’s not in the pool testing out new tricks and pushing to see how long she can hold her breath, you can usually find Holzner cooking and making some do-it-yourself projects as well as hiking, skiing, and crafting. One of her favourite mottos is “she believed she could so she did”.
Check back next week to learn about another Tokyo 2020 hopeful.
Known affectionately as Kingsley, AB and Smoov, Aaron Brown is looking to book his ticket to Tokyo to compete in his third Olympic Games. He represented Team Canada at London 2012 and Rio 2016. In Rio, he was a member of the bronze medal winning 4x100m relay team, alongside Andre De Grasse, Akeem Haynes, Brendon Rodney, and Bolade Ajomale. The squad set a national record time of 37.64 seconds. Before the Games, in June 2016, Brown became the fourth Canadian man to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m, running a 9.96.
Brown is an avid shoe collector and started 2020 off with a beautiful waterfront wedding. A motto he lives by is “to be number 1, you must train like you’re number two”.
Follow this Tokyo hopeful on Instagram.
Montrealer Annie Guglia was crowned Canadian street skateboarding champion in March 2020, Vice-Champion in 2019, and won the Empire Open title in 2018. She represents one of Canada’s best Olympic hopefuls for Tokyo 2020, where skateboarding will make its debut on the Olympic programme. In addition to being a skateboarding pro, bewteen 2015 and 2017, Annie wrote her master’s thesis on the skateboard industry. It was when doing her thesis research that she regained the taste for competition – she didn’t even consider herself as an “athlete” before this revelation.
On her Instagram, she’ll show you her 🔥 skateboard skills in awesome videos, like the one below. Since Annie takes part in competitions all over the world, you will have unprecedented access to the backstage of these events, both in her posts and in her stories. Fun fact: she writes mainly in English, but she is perfectly bilingual!
Follow this Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful on Instagram.
Hoping to make her first Olympic appearance, Kelsey Mitchell didn’t always think it would be in track cycling. Growing up in Alberta, Mitchell was a competitive soccer player who didn’t get her start in cycling until age 23 after being discovered through the RBC Training Ground program.
She rode her first race in February 2018 and the rest is history! After getting adjusted to competing on her own rather than with a team, Mitchell won sprint gold at the 2018 Canadian Championships as well as bronze in the keirin and 500m trial. However that wasn’t the only time she tasted victory. At the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, she won sprint gold in the 200m and set a world record! In January 2019, she finished sixth at her first UCI World Cup in Hong Kong. Mitchell admires the mentality and work ethic of fellow track cycler and Olympic medalist Georgia Simmerling, who was also a late transfer into the sport.
This talented 19-year-old has everyone watching. Known for breaking all the age records, Félix Auger-Aliassime is taking the tennis world by storm. It all started at 14-years-old when he made history by being the youngest to qualify for an event on the ATP Challenger Tour. Last August, he was the first player born in the 2000s to be on the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament at the US Open.
At 18-years-old he became the youngest player to reach No. 33 in the rankings since Lleyton Hewitt on October 18, 1999. But it doesn’t stop there. In 2019, Auger-Aliassime continued to turn heads when he became the youngest ever semi-finalist at the Miami Open. The Montreal native currently ranks No. 20 in the ATP rankings and is on his way to becoming one of Canada’s next great tennis stars. Fun Fact: He is bilingual in English and en français!
This talented Olympian brings lots of experience to the pitch. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé has been a part of the Canadian Women’s Soccer program since 2002. It all started at the age of twelve in Edmonton, Alberta where she picked up a soccer ball for the first time. She played collegiate soccer for the University of Connecticut and then made her senior national team debut in July 2008. Since then she’s helped put Canadian soccer on the map with 55 international appearances (as of May 2020). With the under-20 national team, she won gold and silver at the 2004 and 2006 Concacaf Championships, and competed at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup both years.
She’s represented Canada at two Pan American Games. At Santo Domingo 2003 she took home a silver medal and finished fourth at Toronto 2015. Labbé was also on the Canadian roster for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011 and 2015, helping Canada qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a silver medal at the 2018 Concacaf Championship. Even with such an impressive resume, her biggest accomplishment didn’t come until she made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016. She started five out of six games, allowed only four goals and helped lead Team Canada to a bronze medal. Now she has her sights set on making another run for the podium at Tokyo 2020. Labbé has also been open about her battle with depression and shared her story to help others.
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Whether it’s blocking shots or writing books, this talented basketball player can do it all. Alexander first put a basketball in her hands in grade six and the rest is history. She went on to play college ball for Syracuse and became only the second player from that school to be selected in a WNBA draft. She currently plays for the Chicago Sky in her sixth year in the league.
Alexander also helped Team Canada secure a third consecutive spot in the Olympics after going 3-0 in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February 2020. Alongside basketball, another passion of hers is teaching and inspiring kids. She combined her two passions in 2019 when she released a children’s book called The Magic of Basketball, co-written with her younger sister Kesia. Look for her on the court as she hopes to make her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 next summer.
This 23-year-old is one of Canada’s most promising female rugby players. She started playing at the age of 14 on her high school team and quickly realized it was her passion. Within three years she went from a club team, on to the provincial and then to national team programs. Williams was a part of the Canadian Women’s Sevens Youth Olympic Team who placed second at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.
Her Canada Women’s Sevens Team debut came at the 2014-2015 World Rugby Women’s Sevens World Series. She also competed at the tournament the following year with a total of five career WSWS appearances. However Williams’ biggest highlight yet was helping Team Canada earn the bronze medal at Rio 2016. She’s now hunting for a second Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020.
This accomplished 22-year-old swimmer knows his way around a pool. After being inspired by Brent Hayden’s performance at London 2012, Thormeyer knew he also wanted to make it to the Olympic Games. Four years later, he made his Olympic debut at Rio 2016 in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay finishing seventh. A year later he took home a bronze medal at the 2017 FINA World Championships as a part of the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay team.
Thormeyer made his international breakthrough in 2018, when he won 100m backstroke bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. In 2019, he made history at the Canadian Trials, breaking a 10-year national record in the men’s 100m backstroke with a time of 53.35 seconds. Thormeyer was also named Swimming Canada’s Male Swimmer of the Year in both 2018 and 2019. Look out for this speedy swimmer as he has his sights set on Tokyo 2020.
Winning gold in her Olympic debut at Rio 2016, Erica Wiebe made her name known by becoming Canada’s third ever gold medallist in wrestling. Her journey to becoming an Olympic champion started back in 2007 when she made her first international appearance at the Pan American Games. Wiebe attended London 2012 as a training partner for Olympian Leah Callahan, giving her a first taste of the Olympic experience.
Wiebe won silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2012 and bronze the following year. However her best year yet came in 2014 where she won every individual tournament she entered, a total of 36 matches. She finished off her incredible season with gold medals at both the Commonwealth Games and World University Championships. Wiebe joins Tonya Verbeek and Carol Huynh as Canada’s only female Olympic wrestling medallists. In 2018, she won 76kg bronze at the World Wrestling Championships. She now has her eyes on defending her title at Tokyo 2020.
This skilled basketball player started her Team Canada journey at the U-16 FIBA Americas Championship in 2011. The following year she led the team to a bronze medal as team captain. In 2014, she helped Canada qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championships and starred as the youngest member of the team. Recognize her name? She comes from a family full of athletic achievement. Her brother Darnell Nurse plays in the National Hockey league and her cousin Sarah Nurse is also a Team Canada athlete, on the women’s ice hockey team.
Kia represented Canada again in 2015, taking home gold at both the Pan American Games in Toronto and the FIBA Americas Championship, qualifying the team for the Rio 2016 Olympics. She was the top scorer for Canada at the Pan Am Games, earning her the spot of the Closing Ceremony flag bearer. She’s also played for the WNBA’s New York Liberty since 2018. Kia made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 and hopes to lead her team to an Olympic podium at Tokyo 2020 (the women’s team has already qualified).
This decorated athlete is an Olympic veteran who made her debut at Beijing 2008. It all started back at the age of seven when she began diving for the first time. Shortly after Meaghan Benfeito started diving competitively, she realized she had found her passion. Her first big achievement came at the 2005 FINA World Championships where she won bronze in the 10m synchro with Roseline Filion. In 2007 she made her Pan Am Games debut where she took home bronze in the 3m synchro. Meaghan won bronze again at Guadalajara 2011 and took home gold at Toronto 2015.
In her second Olympic Games at London 2012, Meaghan won the bronze medal in 10m synchro with longtime partner Filion. Four years later at Rio 2016, the dynamic duo took home the bronze once again. Meaghan also secured the bronze in the individual 10m event, totalling her Olympic medal count to three. She’s now back in the pool and training, with her sights set on another medal at Tokyo 2020.
Whether it’s swimming, cycling or running, this triathlete can do it all! Tyler Mislawchuk first started triathlon at the age of 15 after being inspired by Simon Whitfield’s performance at Beijing 2008. His first international competition was in 2011 at the ITU World Championships in the junior division. In 2013, he made his World Cup debut on home soil in Edmonton.
After competing in several Pan American Cup, Oceania Cup and European Cup events, Mislawchuk made his ITU World Triathlon Series debut in 2015. He finished 10th at the London stop where he was the highest-ranked Canadian man in just his third start. Mislawchuk also placed 10th at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and competed at the Grand Final as a senior for the first time. His Olympic debut came at Rio 2016 where he placed 15th overall. He currently ranks 5th in the world rankings and is back to training for Tokyo 2020.
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A latecomer to the sport, Mike Woods started his cycling career at age 25 after his running career came to an end due to several injuries. His first national championship road race came in 2012 where he finished in 21st place. Just two years later he improved his placing drastically, finishing within one spot of the podium in fourth place. Woods earned his first professional victory in 2015, in the fifth stage of the Tour of Utah. In 2018, he won the 17th stage of the Vuelta a España for his first Grand Tour stage victory. But that wasn’t his only highlight of the year.
A few weeks later, Woods made Canadian history with a bronze medal finish in the road race at the 2018 UCI World Championships. It was the first medal earned by a Canadian man in the event in 34 years. Woods also had another competitive achievement in October 2019 when he won the Milano-Torino one-day classic. Known for pushing through injuries, Woods made his Olympic debut at Rio 2016 a few weeks after breaking his hand. Look out for this speedy cyclist as he makes his second Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020.
It all started at age four when Antoine Valois-fortier’s parents enrolled him in judo for the first time. In 2000, his dream to make the Olympic Games came to fruition when he met his future coach and Olympian Nicolas Gill. Starting in 2011, Antoine won six straight medals at the Pan American Championships including a gold in 2016. His Olympic debut came at London 2012 where he took home the bronze. It was a special moment because he became the first Canadian judoka to earn an Olympic medal since Sydney 2000, where his coach Gill was a silver medallist.
After claiming his first Grand Prix medal in February 2013 in Düsseldorf, he won his first Grand Slam medal in May 2014 in Baku. In 2015, Antoine had another breakthrough when he won his first Grand Prix gold in Ulaanbaatar. In 2016, he was Canada’s top-ranked judoka at the end of the Olympic qualification window. Antoine earned his third world championship medal in 2019 with a bronze, after winning silver in 2014 and bronze in 2015. Antoine is now back to training as he prepares for Tokyo 2020.
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This skilled rugby player has made a name for herself in recent years. Pamphinette (Pam) Buisa started playing the sport in seventh grade after originally being interested in basketball. Her first major competition was at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing where she helped Canada win a silver medal. She also suited up for Team Canada at the 2017-18 World Rugby Sevens Series and played in the tournament the following year as well.
In 2018, Pam competed at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco. Pam wore the Maple Leaf again at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. She’s been an active voice for the Black Lives Matter Movement alongside teammate Charity Williams. Pam hopes to make her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
Denis Shapovalov first held a tennis racket at the age of five and has had an incredible rise ever since. At only 21-years-old, he already has an impressive list of accomplishments. His first big taste of victory was in 2015 when he led Canada to its first ever Junior Davis Cup title. In 2016, he became a Grand Slam winner on the junior circuit in Wimbledon, becoming the third Canadian to do so. The following year in his first full year on the ATP tour, Denis rose more than 200 spots, finishing the year ranked 51st.
In 2018, at only 19-years-old, he cracked the top 30 in the world rankings, becoming the youngest player to do so since 2005. He continued to turn heads when he became the only teenager ranked in the top 20 in April 2019. Denis won his first ATP title in October 2019 at the Stockholm Open. Having competed at some of the biggest stages in tennis, his next goal is to compete at his first Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.
Getting into the world of cycling at age 13, Leah Kirchmann first competed at the junior world championships in both road cycling and mountain biking, eventually choosing to focus on road cycling. After her appearance at Rio 2016, Kirchmann won team time trial bronze at the 2018 UCI World Championships along with placing fourth in the individual time trial — a great personal success as the time trial had formerly been a weakness of hers.
In 2019 the cyclist landed a spot on the podium, placing second in the La Course by le Tour de France. Most recently, she secured a spot representing Team Canada in road cycling at Tokyo 2020. Outside of cycling her interests include cross-country skiing, hiking, cooking, and yoga. She is also a Fast and Female athlete ambassador and leads the mentorship program for the Global Relay Bridge the Gap fund.
Known to some as Karo, cyclist Karol-Ann Canuel first began her competitive career at just age 11. Breaking her helmet during her very first race due to a fall, Canuel got right back on her bike the next day. Her determination is what led her to making history in 2014 when she became the first Canadian cyclist to win world championship gold in the team time trial.
From 2015 to 2018, Canuel recorded four straight podium finishes in the individual time trial at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau. Canuel had her Olympic debut at Rio 2016, where she was Canada’s top finisher in the women’s Road race. She will be representing Team Canada once again in road cycling at Tokyo 2020 alongside Kirchmann. Canuel’s interests outside of sport include reading, yoga, and watching Netflix!
Sage Watson, wearer of the iconic red lip in competition, first entered the world of track and field at age six, and became competitive at age 14. She became inspired to compete for Team Canada while watching Canadian athletes compete at Athens 2004. Watson made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 where she advanced to the semifinals of the 400m hurdles and anchored Canada to a fourth-place finish in the 4x400m relay.
In 2019, Watson made history during the 400m hurdles semi-final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, crossing the finish line with a new personal best of 54.32 seconds; breaking the previous Canadian record of 54.39 held by Rosey Edeh. During her off season, Watson enjoys finding time for yoga, cooking, and horseback riding.
“Thrown” in the pool at age two-three, Jeremy Bagshaw competed in his first meet at age four. Bagshaw first got his chance at representing Canada at the 2009 Junior Pan Pacific Championships before gaining multi-sport games experience at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 where he won the bronze in the 200m freestyle. He then became a three-time Canadian World Championship team member and looks to represent Canada once again with his eyes set on Tokyo 2020.
Bagshaw graduated from the University of California, Berkley in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology. He will continue to pursue making his first Olympic team while attending medical school in Limerick, Ireland. His other interests include watching soccer and basketball, and trying new foods from different countries!
Nick Wammes started out as an endurance athlete, competing in both road and track events at age 12. It wasn’t until early 2016, when he decided to solely focus on track cycling. In the same year, Wammes won two medals in the junior division at the Canadian championships. Fast forward to 2018, he transitioned into the elite category and won sprint bronze at the Canadian championships.
Wammes had not even turned 20 when he represented Canada at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. Less than eight weeks later, he won three national titles at the 2019 Canadian Championships, finishing first in the keirin, sprint, and team sprint events. Most recently, Wammes had his first top 10 finish on the World Cup circuit in January 2020 when he finished ninth in the sprint at the World Cup stop in Milton. He will be competing at his first Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020. Wammes’ interests outside of cycling include photography, videography, and hiking.
Check back here every Friday for a new Team Canada athlete making their way to Tokyo 2020.
Having a later start than most, Brandie Wilkerson began playing beach volleyball in 2013. Prior to this, Wilkerson had a successful indoor volleyball career as a four-time All-Star opposite hitter at York University, which aided in her transition to beach volleyball. She made her first AVP appearance in the 2017 season as part of a qualifier team (with American Nicole Branagh). At the Manhattan Beach Open, the second last stop of that season, the pair made it to the finals. Moving forward, Wilkerson was a force to be reckoned with at both AVP and the FIVB World Tour.
In 2018, she earned the FIVB World’s Best Blocker title. In that same year, alongside teammate Heather Bansley, the pair won their first gold medal on the FIVB Beach Volleyball circuit. The pair also won the bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 test event in July 2019. They are currently ranked sixth in the provisional FIVB Olympic Rankings, on track to qualify for Tokyo 2020. Wilkerson’s interests outside of sport include photography and painting.
Ellie Black began her competitive gymnastics career at age nine, inspired by seeing the Beijing 2008 artistic gymnastics competition on TV. Five years later, Black ended a lengthy drought at the 2013 Universiade where she became the first Canadian female artistic gymnast to win a medal at the world student games since 1983, a preview of her historic accomplishments to come in the next few years. In 2015, she finished seventh in the women’s individual all-around for Canada’s best-ever result in the event. At Rio 2016, Black placed fifth in the women’s individual all-around for the country’s best ever Olympic result in the event.
She didn’t stop there. In 2017, she made history at the FIG World Championships, winning silver to become Canada’s first ever all-around medallist at the worlds. Most recently, at Lima 2019, Black became the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the individual all-around at the Pan Am Games. That was one of five medals Black won in Lima, bringing her career Pan Am Games total to 10, and making her Canada’s most decorated gymnast ever at the Pan Ams. Outside of making Canadian history, Black enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and collecting Starbucks mugs from her travels.
Leya Buchanan started running track at age 11 and made her IAAF World Championships debut in 2017, competing in the 100m sprint. She finished second in the 100m at the 2017 and 2018 Canadian Championships and reached the 100m final at the 2018 NACAC Championships in Toronto, finishing eighth.
More recently, Buchanan raced in the 100m and 4x100m relay at Lima 2019. She also became the 2019 Canadian silver medallist in the 100m as well as the 2019 Canadian champion in the 200m. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and enjoys watching crime TV series on Netflix in her free time.