Celebrating Mother's Day with the Mom of an Olympic Athlete

Suncor, the proud parent company of Petro-Canada, has a history of family members working across the organization: spouses, siblings, parents and their children. To celebrate Mother's Day, I was delighted to feature an interview with Val Mitchell, a Community Relations Senior Advisor at the Edmonton Refinery who has been with Suncor for over 22 years and her daughter, Kelsey Mitchell, who worked for Suncor as a summer student for a few years.

Currently Kelsey is getting ready to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the Track Cycling Team in both the sprint and the keirin.

PT: Val, both your daughter and husband have worked at Suncor, what was it like having family work for the same company as you?

Val: My husband worked in Extraction at oil sands and then out at Firebag. When Brent and I were both at oil sands, we would rarely run into each other during the day, but we did ride the bus together to and from site. Kelsey worked 3 summers at the Edmonton Refinery and for 2 of those summers she had a shift position – so I didn’t see her a lot. However, she would try to pay me a quick visit at lunch – and did leave me an occasional post-it note in my office that was fun to read. Plus she always stole out of my candy jar!

PT: Kelsey, any memories from your time at Suncor?

Kelsey: I remember going to Family Day out at the oil sands and getting family pictures in a wheel of one of the mining trucks. When we moved to Sherwood Park, my dad took a different job, but my mom but my mom transferred to the Edmonton Refinery. So, we overlapped when I was working there. Sadly, we didn’t get to hangout much when we both were working at the refinery. But I would visit her the odd time for lunch, and she would make sure we got our yearly Mother-Daughter picture! And I can’t believe she knew about the candy.

Val and Kelsey

PT: Kelsey is heading to her first Olympic Games. What is it like being the Mom of a Canadian Olympic athlete?

Val: Extremely proud – but terrified at the same time. Her sport is about speed – and the faster you go, the better you do. However, speed is dangerous, and other than a helmet, track cyclists don’t wear a lot of protective gear – so while I am loudly screaming “Gooooooo, Kelsey” I am also saying silently “be careful!!”

Brent and I have had the chance to watch Kelsey compete in a few different competitions: 2018   Nationals at Milton, Ontario, 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru and the 2020 Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, Germany. What an amazing experience! We love dressing “Canadian” and waving the flag – and we were so looking forward to cheering her on in Tokyo; however, I completely understand the rationale around "no overseas spectators". I am trying to decide if renting one of those giant outdoor inflatable movie screens in August would annoy our neighbours at 4 AM…

Mitchells with Canadian Flag

PT: Kelsey, congratulations on being nominated to Team Canada! As you prepare to head to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, what helps you remain focused? Is there a quote or mantra that inspires you?

Kelsey: Hopefully everything goes as planned and I will be competing from August 4th-8th. COVID has definitely made it an interesting year…and remaining focused has been a challenge at times. There hasn’t been any racing, so we have been training A LOT. The Cycling Canada team actually did a training camp in Edmonton, AB – I took the team for a bike ride past the refinery, aka a little trip down memory lane.

Something I say to myself, it’s very simple…just “do your best.” Everyone has their good and bad days. Days where you are sore and tired and maybe a little less motivated. But if you show up everyday and do your absolute best, there isn’t much more that you can ask of yourself. At the Olympic Games, I know there will be a lot of pressure and I’ll be nervous and stressed, but I am hoping that I’ll know in that moment, whatever happens, I’ll have given my best!

PT: Kelsey, is there a coach, athlete or individual that you look up to as a role model and why?

Kelsey: My family and friends are the people I look up to and take inspiration from. I have teammates (current and past) that inspire me daily. There is no better motivation for me than when I am struggling during a workout and look over and see my teammates dripping in sweat and struggling as well.

Kelsey and family at a competition

PT: Val, teamwork is key in both the workplace and in sports. From your personal experiences, what have you learned about teamwork?

Val: For me, teamwork means a group of people that use their talents, energy and passion towards a common goal. At the Edmonton Refinery, the COVID experience has really illustrated what can be done to “protect the bubble” when fighting this terrible pandemic – it has been 13 months of over 400 people tackling a problem in so many different ways!

For Kelsey who is now competing in an individual sport (versus a team sport like soccer), teamwork means working with her coach, her training staff, and her fellow Canadian track cycling teammates to get stronger and faster together. Despite the fact that they do compete against each other (and this can be very emotional at times), they all have one common goal: Canada on the international podium!

PT: Val, if you could share a piece of advice with Kelsey as she heads into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, what would you say?

Val: Believe in yourself – you are strong and powerful. Your commitment and hard work have taken you to this dream of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that you talked about when you started this journey in 2018. Stay focused – go fast – and whatever the results, be so very proud of all that you have achieved. Your family and friends are fiercely proud of you, Mitchy!

Kelsey in Lima
Photo Credit: Dave Holland/COC

PT: Kelsey, this story will be published in honour of Mother’s Day – is there anything special you would like to share about your Mom?

Oh, Val Mitchell. My mother. This lady is something special. I don’t know how she has more hours in the day than everyone else but somehow, she does it all. When I was growing-up, she would work full-time, volunteer, help raise three kids, and still make it to my sporting events to cheer me on. She has spent hours and hours driving me to practices and games and tournaments. Hours in the rain and snow, watching me run around and kick a ball. She’s been my #1 fan/supporter since day one and I know she’ll be cheering louder than ever when I am in Tokyo on the start line.


Val and Kelsey, thank you so much for sharing your story with PumpTalk readers. Kelsey, we’ll all be rooting for you in Tokyo!

Since 1988, Petro-Canada has given over $12 million in financial support to 3,000+ Canadian coaches, athletes and their families through programs and awards like the FACE™ Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence grants, the Petro‑Canada Sport Leadership sportif Conference and Coaching Excellence Awards, the Canadian Athlete Family Program and the James Worrall Flag Bearer Award.

Staying Safe and Checking in on Your Mental Health

As weather warms and the calendar turns to May, I'm reminded again that it's Motorcycle Safety Week. The sun and the open road beckon - even if that road is a bit shorter this year, depending upon your province or territory's travel restrictions. The Motorcycle Confederation of Canada (MCC) has chosen the fitting "Watch Out for Each Other" theme for their safety campaign this year - reminding drivers and motorcyclists alike to pay attention to different vehicles on the road.

Motorcycle Safety - Watch Out For Each Other

With COVID-19 still affecting our daily lives, the MCC’s theme applies even beyond motorcycle safety. This week is also Mental Health Week. This year, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is encouraging us to name our emotions in order to fully understand them. By saying how we’re feeling, especially if it’s an emotion like anxiety or fear, we can actually reduce the intensity of those negative emotions and make them more manageable.

Mental Health Week - #GetReal About How You Feel

The CMHA also talks about something that really hit home for me – not just saying the habitual “fine” when someone asks how you’re doing. Often I brush off that question from friends. But the reality is, by taking a moment and digging a little deeper into my emotions, I’ll make a more genuine connection with my friends and gain a little insight into my own mental health – something that is extra important right now.

So let’s all look out for each other – both on the road and off. And if you or someone you love, is struggling with mental health issues and needs some support, there is help available via the Government of Canada’s Wellness Together portal. Please do not hesitate to reach out to get the support that you or your loved one needs.

~Kate T.


Time for a Tune-Up?

Around this time of year, my friend Brian conducts what he calls his "Spring Trunk Clearance".

I remember being excited when he told me about it, because I assumed it had to do with a fun shopping trip. But he was actually talking about the one time per year that he cleans out his trunk.

"I found a bottle of wine in there last year," he told me, "so it was totally worth it."

When spring comes around, cleaning out your trunk is a good start - but taking your car in for a tune-up may be the best way to welcome spring. Booking an appointment for a tune-up may seem like a hassle and an expense, but keeping your car tuned up will save you money on fuel and repairs in the long run.

Mechanic under a Car

How often should I get a tune-up?

That depends on your vehicle. Your owner's manual should tell you how often your vehicle requires maintenance and what specific parts need to be checked or replaced. If you have an older vehicle, you may want to do more frequent checks.

What's involved in a tune-up?

Again, it depends on your vehicle, but a typical tune-up will involve the inspection, cleaning and/or replacement of:

  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spark plugs and wires
  • Distributor cap and distribution ignition rotor (if your car has them - some newer models have distributorless ignition)
  • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and gaskets
  • Sensors and belts
  • Lubricants and coolants
  • Ignition timing
  • Tire alignment and tire pressure
  • Car battery
  • Windshield wipers

It's a pretty extensive list! If you're comfortable under the hood of your car, you can perform some of these maintenance items yourself - but even the most experienced DIY'ers know when it's time to let a professional check out their vehicle.

What are the benefits of a tune-up?

As we've discussed in previous PumpTalk posts, each of the systems above, from fuel injectors to air filters can impact your fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. Regular tune-ups can help you save on fuel - and having a professional perform a thorough cleaning and diagnostic of your vehicle can help avoid costly future repairs by catching potential problems early.

When was the last time you took your car in for maintenance? Is it time for a little springtime tune-up?