Two-time Canadian Olympian hopes to fight climate change on IOC Athletes' Commission

Two-time Canadian Olympian Seyi Smith is aiming to fight climate change on the global stage. Smith, 34, is running for election to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Athletes' Commission, where he hopes to lead Olympians from across the world in promoting sustainability.

Former bobsledder-turned-engineer Seyi Smith running for election to key committee

Seyi Smith, seen above competing in bobsleigh at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, is running for election to the International Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission in hopes of promoting sustainability and fighting climate change. (Submitted by the Canadian Olympic Committee)

Two-time Canadian Olympian Seyi Smith is aiming to fight climate change on the global stage.

Smith, 34, is running for election to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Athletes' Commission, which represents athletes' interests at the IOC table, where he hopes to lead Olympians from across the world in promoting sustainability.

"I want to help athletes lead the race to zero. We can be players in the biggest comeback story the world has ever seen," the Ottawa native said.

Smith is a candidate for one of two open spots on the commission, which will be voted on by athletes at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser was elected to the commission in 2014. Her eight-year term ends with Beijing's Games.

Winner of multiple Olympic gold medals and an active athlete participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wickenheiser had name recognition in the international athlete community that Smith lacks.

Smith, who will be in Beijing as a Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) athlete mentor, sought out Wickenheiser's advice.

"Hayley is huge and her name carries a lot of weight, and mine does not carry as much weight. She gave me some suggestions on the groundwork I need to do in the village," Smith said. "She gave me tips on how to be heard and how to make an impact."

Smith now works as an electrical engineer, specializing in renewable energy technologies. A multi-sport athlete, he previously competed as part of Canada's 4x100-metre relay team at London 2012 and on the Canadian bobsleigh team at PyeongChang 2018.

It was in London where he experienced heartbreak as the Canadian team crossed the finish line in third place and began to celebrate, only to be disqualified.

"My world was shattered once. I can't sit on the sidelines and allow that to happen again. Many athletes have asked me what they can do. I know how athletes can use their platforms as role models to help lead the massive change that is needed," he said.

Past work leading up to election

Smith founded the non-profit organization Racing To Zero, which helps grassroots sports organizations reduce their carbon footprint. He's also a member of the IOC's Sustainability and Legacy Commission, and previously served on the COC's Athletes' Commission between 2012 and 2020, including as chair from 2017 on.

Now, he hopes to go international.

"One of my biggest goals is to help athletes around the globe amplify their voices so they can become more influential in the areas that matter to them most," Smith said.

"Whether or not there's a critical mass that aren't already part of it that will find this appealing and will want to get behind it, I don't know and it's partially my job to make it appealing and make it worth everybody's while."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press

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