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Whistler mountain biker named B.C.’s Master Athlete of the Year

Cathy Zeglinski is the reigning World Masters Champion, following her win in 2019
whistler doctor Cathy zeglinski - mountain biker - sport bc master athlete of the year
Longtime Whistlerite and reigning World Masters Champion mountain biker Cathy Zeglinski, seen here riding in Pemberton, was honoured on Thursday, March 25 as Sport BC’s Master Athlete of the Year.

Mountain biker Cathy Zeglinksi might not have competed in a single race in 2020, but she nonetheless was honoured with the title of Master Athlete of the Year at Sport BC’s Athlete of the Year ceremony, held virtually on Thursday, March 25.

That’s because the award was initially supposed to be doled out during an in-person ceremony in Vancouver on March 12, 2020, just one day after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.

Like most events and planned competitions last spring, the awards were swiftly shut down. “To me that was the harbinger of things to come, that COVID really was real, because things like that were getting cancelled with such short notice,” Zeglinski recalled.

The 54th annual awards were postponed until this week—offering the long-time Whistlerite just a few extra months of anticipation to find out whether she’d won.

“I thought I had a good chance, but no one told me until a couple of weeks before the event, because they were needing a taped message from all the winners. So it was a bit anticlimactic. They said, ‘Oh, by the way we need this—did anyone tell you that you won?’” she said with a laugh.

“It was a bit different than, you know, an announcement at an awards dinner where you go up on stage, but they did the best they could.”

In addition to her new title of B.C. Master Athlete of the Year, Zeglinski is still holding onto her title of World Masters Champion after winning the women’s 55-to-59 cross-country race at the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championship in Mont Ste. Anne, Que. “It's bittersweet; I got to have the jersey for two years but I won't ever have an event where I get to be in the outfit,” she said. “Because there's not going to be any racing this year, by the way it's going.”

Prior to her win in 2019, Zeglinski also won masters gold in South Africa in 2013, despite competing in that event with a broken collarbone.

She credited much of her success to her 2019 World Championships coach Mike Charuk—who also coached B.C.’s 2020 Junior Male Athlete of the Year Carter Woods—as well as her previous long-time coach Tony Routley from Team Whistler and Mark Bunyan, who Zeglinski credits with bringing her “technical skill level up a big notch.”

Rather than competing, the next challenge Zeglinski will face will be shoulder surgery this spring. Afterwards, she’ll balance her recovery with running her new business. She’s taking her decades of experience as a family physician in the corridor and funnelling it into a venture called Empowered Med that aims to help clients prevent and recover from burnout through the principles of sport.

But that’s not to say Zeglinski’s turned the competitive taps off for good. “I need to ride fast enough that I can keep riding with my friends who are all racers,” she said.

Zeglinski expanded on her motivation in a recorded acceptance speech broadcast during Thursday’s virtual awards ceremony, explaining, “I truly believe in the old adage that we are all going to age—that’s inevitable—but growing old is a choice. So choose to be young: Stay fit, stay healthy and keep active.”