On her Twitter profile, Amelia Walsh bills herself as a “Northern Girl riding little bikes all over the world.” This weekend, at the Canada Cup BMX/Pan Am preview event happening at Etobicoke, Ont.’s Centennial Park BMX facility, she’ll be riding those bikes at home—or close to home, at any rate.
Born in Ayr, Ont., the 22-year-old Walsh starting riding BMX bikes at the age of 15, and just for fun. At the time, she hadn’t considered a professional, competitive career doing what she loves, but that’s indeed what happened. “I was instantly hooked and it rapidly became my life,” her website bio reads. During her first year of racing, she rose to become provincial champion. The following year, Team Ontario came knocking, with her first international competition happening in 2009 at the world championships in Adelaide, Australia. She became a rider for the Canadian national BMX team in 2010.
“I’ve always been a super competitive person,” Walsh told Canadian Cycling Magazine. “I didn’t take it seriously when I first started. It was just for fun at first and quickly became professional.”
That professional arc brings her back to Ontario this weekend, riding in the Toronto Canada Cup/Pan Am event from June 13 through 14. After that, it’s on to the Abbotsford Canada Cup on June 29, the Canadian national championships in Drummonville, Que., happening on July 3, and finally, the main event: the Pan Am Games, where she’ll be competing from July 10 to 11.
Walsh has spent most of her time of late in San Diego, Calif., where she’s been training. It’s an experience she’s relished, having had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best female BMXers. “I’ve been laying off the gym so I can spend more time on my bike,” she said. “I’ve actually been able to get in the gate with the girls and been able to bump bars with them and stuff.” Knowing what’s on the line as she heads into the Canada Cup this weekend—namely, a shot at the world championships—Walsh is taking the process very, very seriously. “I’ve always had a pretty good start out of the gate,” she said, appraising her talent, “so I’ve been working more on my strengths and even more on my weaknesses. I really want to get out and clear a path this weekend.”
While the stakes of this weekend’s competition are driving her, though, she’s also attracted to what the Pan Am Games are going to bring, with a deeper field and a more intense tempo of riding. “It’s definitely more preliminary,” she said about the Toronto Canada Cup/Pan Am event. “There’s only five or six of us at this event, which is a smaller game compared with the Pan Am Games.”
All that said, the real appeal as she returns from California to her home soil is all but obvious. “I’m extremely happy to be back and able to represent Canada,” she said.