Kingston at the Olympics: Annie Foreman-Mackey Takes on Tokyo 2020

By Steph Crosier

This story was originally published by Steph Crosier in the Kingston Whig-Standard.

To say Annie Foreman-Mackey’s journey to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games has been unpredictable, busy and filled with mixed emotions would be an understatement, but she couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s exciting, especially after the craziness of the past year and a bit,” team pursuit cyclist Foreman-Mackey said from Milton where she and her teammate are training at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre. “It actually feels a bit surreal that it is all going ahead … It’s just a huge honour and it’s something you dream might be possible, but it’s another to actually become reality.”

She plans for the races in Tokyo to be her last as a competitive athlete as she continues her next challenge: medical school at the University of British Columbia. Originally the plan was to start med school after her retirement, but because of the pandemic, she’s has had to balance her first year as a student and Olympic-level training.

Annie Foreman-Mackey, of Kingston, will be representing Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, competing in team pursuit cycling. PHOTO BY NICK WAMMES

“Definitely not how I imagined the year before the Olympics to look like,” Foreman-Mackey said.

Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute graduate admitted the balance hasn’t always come easy, especially becoming a student again after a seven-year hiatus, but she managed to get creative squeezing in her training and focusing it on quality or quantity. On the plus side, Foreman-Mackey likes having a busy schedule and she even found time to work at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

“You have to really listen to your body,” Foreman-Mackey reflected. “In terms of athletic training, you’re always sort of trying to find that line of digging yourself into a hole, because you have to train really hard and you’re kind of flirting burn out, and then you take recovery and build back. That’s how you get stronger.

Unable to waver in her studies or training, Foreman-Mackey said had to really watch that line and listen to her body. This sometimes meant taking extra rest days in order to recover adequately. While her coaches and teammates were always available, taking responsibility for training on her own in Vancouver took a lot of trust from them.

“I think we did a good job, but it is asking a lot from your team to believe in you and to trust you,” Foreman-Mackey said. “I think we were able to do that because we had spent so much time together historically as a team and so our technical skills were there. It was just using the time away to build your engine.”

2016 Track Cycling World Championships, London, England (Eric Feferbeg/AFP/Getty Images)

Foreman-Mackey found her love for cycling at a young age after watching fellow Kingstonian Simon Whitfield win triathlon gold at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. She said she soon started competing in the Kingston Kids’ Triathlon and other triathlons as she grew older. While she trained for all three elements, she excelled at swimming especially and joined the Kingston Blue Marlins swim team. She then competed at the varsity level with McMaster University.

As she completed her degree in Health Sciences Foreman-Mackey returned back to cycling and participated in some road and mountain biking races as well as the KTown Tri. In 2014, she was invited to Los Angeles for a trial to join the team and was successful. She said the transition from swimming to cycling was smooth because she is highly motivated by having teammates. Foreman-Mackey described her McMaster swim team as a family.

“I think the team aspect of team pursuit is the reason why I’m still very committed to the sport,” Foreman-Mackey said. “I’m motivated going to the start line with other people knowing that what you are doing is contributing to something bigger than yourself.”

In addition to competing around the world with the team, Foreman-Mackey was an alternate at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The team didn’t need her to compete, but she said it gave her a solid dry run on what to expect.

As Foreman-Mackey continued to train with the team, she earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Toronto. Because of all she had learned, going to the Olympics during a global pandemic brought on some mixed emotions. There was even a time when she felt like it wasn’t right to go. It caused a lot of personal conflict.

“It’s just these two very different worlds where the athletic world had to keep pushing along like everything was going ahead, because you have to have that singular focus to keep your motivation through the hard days,” Foreman-Mackey recalled.

“Then on the other side, I have a background in public health and I’m integrating into the medical community slowly, and seeing the devastation that COVID has brought to this other world … in some ways, it felt like living a contradiction that I felt quite challenged by and it’s something I continue to reckon with it. There’s no black and white at this moment and it’s just a lot of complexities.”

Annie Foreman-Mackey, of Kingston, will be representing Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, competing in team pursuit cycling. PHOTO BY NICK WAMMES

The Tokyo Olympics officially start July 23 with the opening ceremonies and conclude on August 8. Foreman-Mackey and her team are scheduled to compete on Aug. 2 at 2:50 a.m. local time, on Aug. 3 at 2:30 a.m., and, if they make it to the finals, again at 4 a.m.

The games are being streamed in Canada by CBC.

Foreman-Mackey and her team leave for Japan on July 24 and she is most looking forward to getting on the Izu Velodrome track to take on the best in the world. It has been nearly a year and a half since and her team raced the 4000 m and despite the results, she’ll be finishing her career at the top of her game.

“It feels pretty meaningful as a closing out of a career that has been a wild journey,” Foreman-Mackey said. “We’ve been working really hard behind the scenes and to be able to perform in front of the whole world is a pretty wild experience.”

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