Two Canadian cyclers emerge from the pack on the indoor track.

Best of 2021: Mitchell and Genest make quick rise to top of track cycling world

Our Best of 2021 series recaps the incredible performances by Canadian athletes over the past year. Check out the full list here.

Kelsey Mitchell’s road from varsity soccer player to Olympic track cycling champion in just four years was an inspiring story of dream-chasing for all Canadians to witness. In her first Olympic appearance, the 28-year-old captured gold in the women’s sprint on the final day of competition.

Lauriane Genest reached the Olympic podium following a similar trajectory. The 23-year-old began racing just five years before taking the bronze medal in the women’s keirin, beating fellow finalist Mitchell to the finish line.

The medal-winning duo garnered a lot of attention over the summer for their friendship. Both Mitchell and Genest were scouted by Cycling Canada through RBC Training Ground.

Here’s a recap of the rise of Team Canada’s newest cycling stars:

The first Olympic event for the first-time Olympians was the keirin. Pitted in the same semifinal, they both advanced to the six-woman final. Genest came through with Canada’s first ever Olympic medal in the event while Mitchell finished fifth as both of them beat the previous Canadian best-ever Olympic result. 

Kelsey Mitchell and Lauriane Genest race against each other in the track cycling sprint
Picture by Alex Whitehead/ – Tokyo 2020 Olympics – 07/08/2021 – Cycling Track – Izu Velodrome, Izu, Japan – Kelsey Mitchell of Canada and Lauriane Genest of Canada in action during race one of the women’s sprint quarterfinals

READ: Genest wins keirin bronze in track cycling at Tokyo 2020

READ: Hard work pays off for Canadian cycling teammates at Tokyo 2020

In the sprint, the two Canadians ended up in a head-to-head showdown in the quarterfinals. Mitchell won to move on to the semis, where she took down the reigning world champion before dominating the final to become Canada’s second ever Olympic champion in track cycling.

READ: Mitchell sprints from cycling newcomer to Tokyo 2020 gold medallist

READ: Mitchell wins track cycling sprint gold at Tokyo 2020

Mitchell proved her Olympic medal was no fluke as she emerged from the Games as one of the world’s strongest sprints cyclists. In October, she won her first career world championship medal, claiming bronze in the women’s sprint. Who did she have to beat to reach the podium? None other than Genest as they ended up in the head-to-head showdown for third place.

Kelsey Mitchell (right) on the podium with the two other women's sprint medallists
Emma Hinze of Germany, center, shows her gold medal with Kelsey Mitchell of Canada in bronze, right, and Lea Sophie Friedrich of germany, silver, after the women’s sprint race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championship in Roubaix, north of France, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

READ: Kelsey Mitchell wins women’s sprint bronze at track cycling worlds

Mitchell ended a 17-year Olympic gold medal drought for Canadian track cyclists at Tokyo 2020. But based on her and Genest’s performances this year, the future is bright and perhaps the wait for the next gold won’t be quite so long.