Player's Own Voice·Audio

Player's Own Voice podcast: Cynthia Appiah takes the reins

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast talks with bobsleigh pilot Cynthia Appiah about the troubles at her sport federation, the lessons learned in Beijing, and about carving her own path as a Black athlete and leader in winter sports.

Bobsleigh pilot navigates obstacles, on and off the track

Canada's Cynthia Appiah waves to the crowd after her final run in the women's monobob event at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games on February 14, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The more public the troubles at Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton become, the less easy they are to nail down.

More than 70 athletes are calling for a leadership overhaul, amid complaints of 'toxic culture' and a serious breakdown in trust and respect between those who compete in the high-speed, high-danger sports, and those who coach, train, manage, repair, plan, and organize on the athletes' behalf.

There may be more issues than any one athlete can fairly decode, but Canadian monobob and two-woman bobsleigh pilot Cynthia Appiah does her level best. Safety and concussion protocols are part of the contention. Many internal management decisions are stirring resent. Resources appear to be allocated based on criteria that athletes find opaque.

Appiah is often asked to comment on these disputes, and she is vocal about doing so, but at the same time, she worries that speaking out might limit her career.

With the Beijing Olympics in fresh hindsight, Appiah is certain about a few things -- She is much happier with her two-woman Olympic performance than she is with her monobob runs, even though she finished a very respectable sixth in both events.

She is all-in for the next four years of intense work toward the 2026 Olympics and is refreshingly open-minded about her strengths and areas needing improvement as a team leader.

And she is as balanced as anyone could possibly be in recognizing her role as a BIPOC leader in winter sport. The challenge that Appiah sees is not just about attracting new, diverse  people into sliding sports, but in making sure that once those athletes do commit, they don't bump against glass ceilings.

As Appiah says to Anastasia Bucsis, the host of Player's Own Voice podcast – she is not just there to represent, she's there to win.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. Appiah has written about her one-woman races for the series, too.

Transcripts available provided for our hard of hearing audience. To listen to Cynthia Appiah or any of the guests from earlier episodes, and more Canadian athletes from the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, head to CBC Listen — or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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