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Obstacles & Opportunities

Jul 2021

Haley Smith & Andrew L’Esperance

Married duo Haley Smith and Andrew L’Esperance (aka Lespy) are professional mountain bikers. They both ride for Norco Factory Team as well as the Canadian National Team, and Haley is CURRENTLY in Tokyo ready to represent Canada at her first Olympic Games!

We caught up with Haley & Lespy last week while they were in Andorra prepping for the upcoming Games.

In this conversation, we learn about the beauty that is these incredible humans, as well their amazing partnership. Haley is a REAL Role Model for Fast & Female as well as a mental health advocate. She’s very honest about her ongoing journey with mental health.

Lespy is on the Athlete’s Council for Cycling Canada, and is one of Haley’s main supports. Together, these two travel the globe racing and training!

Keep your eyeballs on the television as Haley competes at the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 27th. Whatever the outcome, Haley, we hope you have an absolute blast!


@haleyhuntersmith & @andrewlespy on Insta

@hale_smith & @andrewlespy on Twitter.

Episode art created using photo by Andy Vathis. Thanks Andy! :)

Jul 2021

Michelle Salt

Michelle Salt is a Paralympic Snowboarder. Her right leg was amputated above the knee following a near-fatal motorcycle crash in 2011. Michelle represented Canada at the Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014, and PyeongChang in 2018.

Prior to her accident, Michelle competed as a fitness model in the NPAA, and three years after her accident, she returned to the Fitness Stage! More recently, she has been an advocate for adaptive wakesurfing.

Michelle is raw and honest throughout this conversation. She talks about the highs and lows of participating in competitive sport, her desire to belong, and her experience with depression, suicidal ideation, and discovering the healthiest version of herself. We hope you are as inspired by her courage, honesty & resilience as we were.


@parashredder on Instagram!

Jun 2021

Adam van Koeverden

From podium to politics, Adam van Koeverden is an Olympic kayaking champion and politician. Adam attended four Olympic Games, and earned Olympic medals and World Championships GALORE throughout his athletic career. He retired from competitive sport after representing Canada one last time at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

In 2019, Adam was elected as the Member of Parliament for Milton, Ontario representing the Liberal Party. He values empathy, advocacy, listening, and humility.

Adam shares the impact that kayaking & nature has had on his life, his continued passion for sport & inclusion, his political roles, and his love & vision for Canada. Bonus points for Adam—his girlfriend, Emily, is a Speech Pathologist like me. :) We had a lot of fun with Adam. Enjoy!


Jun 2021

Lowell Taylor & Ed Veal

Tandem cycling duo Lowell Taylor & Ed Veal are here for our Father’s Day episode! You may recognize Lowell as, well, the co-host of this podcast. ;)  Ed is his tandem cycling pilot… that means he rides on the front of the bike.  As the blind athlete of the operation, Lowell is the stoker who rides on the back. They are fresh off of representing Canada at Road World Championships in Portugal, AND they’re two of the most amazing dads!

Ed started cycling later in life, and loves the thrill of racing. He has competed as an able-bodied athlete as well as a pilot for blind cyclists, and he’s got the medals and titles to prove it! Highlights include: World Hour Record Holder for his age group, National Hour Record, World Cup gold, and Pan-Am Bronze (2015) on the National Team Pursuit squad.  In 2019, he broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest distance cycled in a 24-hour period for a virtual event! Ed is a cycling coach and lives in Hamilton, Ontario with his partner, Amanda. He has a 17yr old son named Evan.

Lowell—a registered psychologist and the father of our beautiful boys (ages 8 & 9)—is legally blind as the result of a degenerative genetic eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. He basically has pinhole tunnel vision now, and is completely blind in low light. He also discovered sport—and specifically cycling—later in life, and believes that sport saved his life. He became involved with Cycling Canada in 2015, and has earned medals from both national and international competitions since. Highlights include earning two silver medals at the 2019 Para Pan Am Games in Peru and becoming the National Time Trial Champion in June 2019. In 2016, Lowell was the first blind contestant to be cast in the history of the Amazing Race Franchise. He competed with ME on season 4 of Amazing Race Canada. No spoilers here… you can go watch for yourself! haha

Lowell & Ed started cycling together in late 2019. They live across the country from one another, so training camps and team projects are how they get their time in together. Most cycling endeavors were cancelled because of the pandemic, but in January 2020, they broke the national record for the kilo at track world championships, and they just raced at Road World Championships in Portugal. They complement each other beautifully, and they’re only getting started!

Lowell & Ed share their individual stories, how they each got into cycling, and how their partnership on the tandem is so magical. They also detail their experience in Portugal, the intricacies of riding a tandem, and where they’re headed next! Ed’s partner Amanda—who is a teacher, photographer, artist, killer cyclist, and overall incredible human—has become a wonderful friend, so it was only natural that she join the conversation too. Enjoy!


Ed’s coaching website: http://www.realdealracing.ca/

Ed’s Instagram/Twitter: @realdealveal

Lowell (& Julie’s) Instagram/Twitter: @JulieLowellCAN

Amanda’s photography Insta: @amandasarahcherish

Jun 2021

Payden Vair

Payden Vair is a Canadian sitting volleyball player headed for the Tokyo2020ne Paralympic Games! Payden’s right leg was amputated below the knee following a mowing accident in 2018. Before her accident, she was a starter for the Kodiaks— the Lethbridge College soccer team. Since her accident, she has joined the Canadian sitting volleyball team and even competed at the 2019 Para Pan Am Games in Peru where she helped Canada bring home the bronze! 

Payden’s accident and life as a para-athlete is fresh, and we’re along for the journey! Her tale is full of twists and turns, and she takes us through it all. Disclaimer—if you are easily queasy with talk of accidents and medical procedures, you may want to familiarize yourself with the skip button and use accordingly. We hope you can tough it out, though… Payden truly does have a remarkable story, and her strength and resilience is inspiring.

Find her on Instagram at @paydenvair :)

Jun 2021

Chandra Crawford & Gaby Estrada of Fast & Female

Today we have TWO special guests—Chandra Crawford & Gaby Estrada—who are both involved in the wonderful organization that is Fast & Female! Fast & Female is a Canadian charity on a mission to keep self-identified girls aged 8-14 healthy and active in sports. Fast and Female believes in the power of positive sport experiences and role models to give girls leadership, teamwork and resiliency skills.

Chandra Crawford—an Olympic Gold Medalist and 3x Olympian in Cross Country Skiing—founded Fast & Female in 2005… BEFORE she qualified for her first Olympics. She has an MBA from the University of Calgary, and lives in Calgary with her husband, Jared, their three (soon to be FOUR) kids under the age of six, and their golden retriever Stella.

Gabriela (Gaby) Estrada is the Program Director for Fast & Female and soccer coach. She is the proud daughter of immigrant parents from Guatemala, and took a shining to soccer at a young age. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, gender and age, looking at the movement-based experiences of racialized women in Scarborough, ON.

In this conversation, we get to hear Chandra & Gaby’s stories as well as all things Fast & Female: its conception, mission, and the impact it has on girls and women across North America. I (Julie) am a REAL (Relatable, Empowered, Active Leader) Role Model for Fast & Female, and I even wore my special F&F shirt and earrings for our chat. ;) We learned so much during this conversation with these two inspiring women… we hope you do too!

Follow their social media @fastandfemale and sign up for their newsletter or apply to be a REAL Role Model at www.fastandfemale.com!

May 2021

Maya Jonas

Maya Jonas is a para runner AND skier... and she's also hilarious! Like Lowell, she has Retinitis Pigmentosa. She was diagnosed at age 24 and was completely blind by 40. It was in her late 40s that she developed a love for sport and became an avid runner. After completing multiple marathons, she set her sights on Nordic skiing in her fifties. She has competed at the Ski World Cup, and was the oldest woman to do so!

Don’t even THINK about telling Maya that she is too old or blind for anything… because she’ll prove you wrong and do it! And she might even kick your butt in the process. ;)

She’s been through it all. She lost her husband to Parkinson’s, she battled breast cancer, and she was running the Boston Marathon at the time of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. 

Maya served as inspiration on Season two of AMI's Mind Set Go- the documentary series that we're also proud to be a part of. She's also an ambassador for Cycle for Sight, and would be thrilled if you went to cycleforsight.ca and supported in any way you could. 

Maya is full of stories and wisdom. Our conversation with her went in all sorts of directions, and she surprised us at every turn. Enjoy!

May 2021

Catharine Pendrel

Catharine Pendrel is an Olympic cyclist. She’s a new mom and also happens to HAVE an incredible mom… very appropriate for this Mother’s Day episode!

Throughout her 14-year cycling career, Catharine has won countless World Championships and National titles. She’s a three-time Olympian who has a bronze medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics, a gold medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and gold & silver medals from the 2007 & 2015 Pan Am Games!

Catharine now trains in Kamloops, BC where she lives with her husband, Keith, and their beautiful baby Dara. She has raced professionally for the Clif Pro Team (formerly Luna) since 2008, and is actively promoting sport and providing cycling opportunities for the next generation.

Catharine has done so much for women in sport. We loved hearing about how she got into cycling, becoming a new mom WHILE being a high performance professional athlete, and how she learned that being her authentic self is the most important part of competition for her.

During this conversation, we talk about Catharine’s road to Tokyo 2020ne. As this episode airs, she is currently IN Europe to clinch her spot on the Olympic team. Go Catharine! We’re cheering you on from afar!



Episode art photo from the 2016 Rio Olympics (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) found at:


May 2021

David Willsie

David Willsie is a Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby player and coach! He became a quadriplegic after he was injured during a hockey game in 1995. Shortly after his injury, he was introduced to wheelchair rugby (aka MURDERBALL), and made the national team in 1998.

David participated in five Paralympic games throughout his 19-year career on the national team. In that time, he was featured in the 2005 documentary Murderball, and he appeared on the Rick Mercer Report. He has since participated in an episode of AMI’s documentary series Mind Set Go (season 2), and he is currently the assistant coach of the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby National Team.

David lives in Dorchester, Ontario and works for Lind Lumber which he runs with his brothers.

It was fascinating learning the history of wheelchair rugby, David’s experience with the national team, and the value of sport throughout his life. We hope you enjoy our conversation!

Apr 2021

Sarah Wells

Sarah Wells is an Olympic hurdler, Amazing Race Canada Sister, and Founder of the Believe Initiative!

Sarah is very familiar with obstacles—literally and figuratively—and she has become an expert at getting over them. As a hurdler, she competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and won the silver medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Her athletic career didn’t play out quite as she expected after that, and she used her story to help over 12,000 youth in North America understand the importance of being resilient and the power of being yourself.

Sarah has worked with organizations such as Salesforce, Deloitte, Proctor and gamble, Kraft-Heinz, Bell Media, and RBC on how to build more resilient teams.

Sarah is a passionate and inspiring person, and—lucky for us—an excellent story teller. In this conversation, we talk about her super cool siblings, the people that have shaped her life, her athletic highs and lows, the Believe Initiative, and of course... the Amazing Race Canada. Time flew with this one, and we know you’ll enjoy her stories as much as we did!




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