It is probably in Mirela Rahneva’s DNA to be an athlete. Her father was a competitive acrobatic gymnast and her mother was an elite junior sprinter in their native Bulgaria. In May 1998, the family immigrated to Canada in hopes of giving Rahneva and her two younger sisters better opportunities. Once settled in Ottawa, her father marked out a 100m sprint track on a bicycle path where he could time her. That was the start of her career as a high-performance athlete.
Her sporting success first came on the rugby pitch as a standout player at the University of Guelph. She was a CIS All-Star in 2010, the same year the Gryphons won the OUA title and captured bronze at the CIS Championships. She also did a short stint with the national rugby sevens squad, which led to her being inspired by Heather Moyse’s transition from rugby to bobsleigh. Too small for bobsleigh, Rahneva was instead encouraged to focus on skeleton.
She competed in her first international event at a North American Cup race in March 2013. She spent two full seasons on the circuit in 2013-14 and 2014-15, winning the overall title in that second season on the strength of four gold medals. She graduated to the Europa Cup circuit for 2015-16, posting four wins to place second in the Cup standings.
In an impressive rookie World Cup season in 2016-17, Rahneva stood on the podium four times and finished third in the overall standings. She started with a bronze medal in Lake Placid in December. She added another bronze in Winterberg in January and five days later earned her first World Cup victory in St. Moritz, breaking the track record at the legendary Olympic Bobrun. Rahneva finished eighth in her world championship debut that year.
In 2017-18, Rahneva posted three fourth place finishes to go with one World Cup podium. She finished third in Innsbruck in December 2017 to stand alongside teammate Elisabeth Vathje who won silver. In her Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018, Rahneva finished 12th.
Rahneva earned a trio of World Cup podiums in 2018-19, including another gold in St. Moritz. On one late February weekend in Calgary, she won gold and silver, helping her to finish third in the overall World Cup standings once again. At the 2019 World Championships, she won a silver medal in the non-Olympic combined team event.
During the 2019-20 season, Rahneva landed on the podium once, winning silver in Winterberg, but she also had four fourth-place finishes. She sat out the 2020-21 season due to a neck injury after a disk herniation in the C5-C6 vertebrae pinched a nerve root. Returning to the World Cup circuit in 2021-22, she slid her way onto two podiums, taking bronze in Winterberg and in St. Moritz.
In her second Olympic appearance at Beijing 2022, Rahneva placed fifth for Canada’s best Olympic result in women’s skeleton since Vancouver 2010.
A Little More About Mirela
Getting into the Sport: First tried skeleton in November 2012 and began competing in 2013… Lived in a church basement for the first few months of her skeleton career because she had to move to Lake Placid, New York which was the closest track to Ottawa… Has wanted to represent Canada at the Olympics since watching Jon Montgomery win gold at Vancouver 2010… Outside Interests: Graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Commerce in tourism management… Finished her Masters in Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Queen’s University Smith School of Business in 2021… Classroom Champions mentor and Fast and Female ambassador… Likes biking, hiking, yoga, cooking, visiting farmers markets… Odds and Ends: Loves and collects little pigs… Favourite quote: “Let your faith be bigger than your fear”… Earliest role model was Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci and the first perfect 10; more recently inspired by Ronda Rousey and Erica Wiebe…
Notable International Results
Olympic Winter Games: 2022 - 5th (women); 2018 - 12th (women)
IBSF World Championships: 2020 - 16th (ind.), 10th (mixed team); 2019 - 12th (ind.), SILVER (team); 2017 - 8th (ind.), 7th (team)