WINNIPEG – Winnipeggers know the name Clara Hughes well. But now there is another Winnipeg cyclist looking to blaze her own trail.
Leah Kirchmann has been setting records and placing among the top cyclists on the world stage. She races for the Optum Pro Cycling team and recently won a bronze medal at La Course, a historic event in women’s racing put on by Le Tour de France last month. Kirchmann is currently competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. The 24-year-old is also the first cyclist in Canada to win three national titles.
Kirchmann says that Hughes inspired her to become a better athlete as well as a better person. The Olympic cyclist and speed skater is one of the most decorated Olympians in Canadian history
“I actually had the opportunity a few years ago to race on the same team as her on the national team for a race in Gatineau. That was just kind of a dream come true, to be able to race with one of my sporting heroes,” she says.
Kirchmann started racing at an organization called Kids of Mud, a youth cycling program at the Manitoba Cycling Organization. She is still working with the provincial cycling team coach, Jason Gillespie, and has training based out of the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba.
“It can be done. And a lot of the kids from here know Leah and remember her and maybe rode with her. The young girls coming up see that it’s totally possible. Just follow your dreams. If that’s what you want to do, you can do it,” says Karin McSherry, Kids of Mud program coordinator.
Kirchmann now hopes to motivate more Manitobans to pursue the sport.
“There is this momentum behind women’s cycling at the moment that’s growing. I’m really excited for where the sport is going,” she says.
While Kirchmann has yet to compete for Canada at the Olympics, Rio 2016 is the next goal on her list. After that, she will have her sights set on the world championships podium.