We opened the floor to our readers to share with us who they believe is Canada’s Top Vegan Athlete. The response was overwhelming and inspirational. We are excited to present these elite Canadian athletes to you and how their vegan lifestyle choices have enhanced their own lives and those of whom they have impacted.
Vegan athletes are taking the podiums more frequently than ever before. Research and demonstration is proving that athletes on plant-based diets recover faster, are better fuelled, in better shape and frankly, better performed. These athletes are living proof this lifestyle has allowed them to be their best and we are thrilled to celebrate them with you.
Madi Serpico Whalen
Age: 25; Years Vegan: 7; Sport: Triathlon
Madi Serpico Whalen toggles homes between Oakland, LA and Calgary these days, promoting and researching other like-minded food and apparel companies similar to the ones who sponsor her. For the past seven years she’s lived and promoted a vegan lifestyle and now shares it with her husband who plays for the Oakland Raiders. At 25, Madi has been a professional athlete for a decade already, racing triathlons since she was 17 and more recently has become a professional model.
As a high-level athlete who was struggling with recovery, she experienced an immediate improvement in her health when she transitioned to a plant-based diet. Her new diet also helped to regulate her hormones and allowed her to lean up and perform optimally.
A huge advocate of animal health and welfare, Madi affirmed her decision to become vegan when she discovered what happens to animals in factory farms.
“Not only do I love racing …(but, I’m) fortunate to have this podium to lead by example that you can perform and thrive, regardless of athletic level.”
Since following Madi I have become vegan myself and have started training fora triathlon – all because of her!
– Alexis Higuera (Nominator)
Age: 39; Years Vegan: 4; Sport: Running
Adriana Wild made the transition to a plant-based diet over a summer four years ago in an effort to increase her running speed as an ultra athlete. She was inspired by the book The China Study and documentaries that included Fork Over Knives. Her thirst for education on plant-based nutrition transformed her life permanently. “There is a stigma in society that vegans don’t get enough protein or iron (without) meat. I consider myself an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle through my running exploits and like to prove to others that being vegan does not prevent me from running and winning races.”
Currently a junior high vice-principal, she inspires others; this year she won Scotiabank Calgary 50km Ultra and Banff Marathon – setting a new course record in the latter. Winning races as a vegan athlete proves that anything is possible and that a plant-based lifestyle does not prevent you from new accomplishments.”
Adriana is well-known in the Calgary running community for being at the front of the pack in her bright outfits with her huge smile and pigtails.
– Alexandra Nagy (Nominator)
Age: 32; Years Vegan: 4; Sport: Ultra Running
Ryan Flint, the champion ultra-runner and veterinarian from Ontario, was skeptical about embracing a vegan lifestyle with the fear it might hinder his athletic performance. He recently stood proud on the podium at 5 Peaks Ontario: Albion Grind sporting his “Team Vegan” logo and first place with his vegan teammate taking second. He raised $3000 for anti-poaching efforts in Africa through Air Shephard at the 100-mile Happy Trails: Tally in the Valley Race.
He claims the biggest benefit for going vegan has been his ability to recover. Whereas before he may work hard one day to the point of barely being able to walk – now he can be back out there the next day, feeling great!
I’m vegan for the animals first and foremost, so it means a lot when I can make a positive impact and hopefully incite meaningful change.
– Ryan Flint
Age: 32; Years Vegan: 10; Sport: Figure Skating
Meagan Duhamel is a two-time World Champion Figure Skater with Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals, plus a seven-time Canadian National Champ in Pairs with Eric Radford, has been vegan since 2008.
“I have competed at the highest level of sport and I’ve done so as a whole-foods vegan.” On the verge of attaining her Sports & Fitness Nutrition Certification from Alive Academy, she has also studied Holistic Nutrition with the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. When not skating, she advocates strongly to others about the vast benefits of a vegan lifestyle and humanitarianism. “I want to be part of a movement in the sporting community that being a vegan means you can be big and strong.”
Recently medaled bronze in her solo event and gold with Team Canada at 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang Meagan currently holds the Canadian record for winning seven national titles in a row. She holds additional medals from 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Meagan has an amazing voice to share with Canadians.Her blog www.lutzofgreens.com is educated and less focused on being “trendy.”
– Jordan Bryden (Nominator)
Age: 32; Years Vegan: Lifelong; Sports: BMX; Snowboarding
Kevin Hill is a lifelong vegan whose lactose intolerant mother made the choice for him and his sister, Shanda Hill (below).
The siblings both competed in BMX racing, with Kevin going pro and later coaching BMX. He later ventured on to snowboarding where he represented Canada in two Winter Olympic Games.
“I used to get called ‘veggie platter’ as a pro BMX racer and coach. The man who coined the nick-name used to weigh well over 300 lbs. He has since changed his diet drastically and lost over 100 lbs.”
Kevin believes he has gained a huge advantage in the realm of sports and life longevity by nurturing a vegan lifestyle.
I feel this lifestyle has given me the extra energy and mental focus needed to reach the top level in multiple elite sports.
– Kevin Hill
Age: 36; Years Vegan: Lifelong; Sports: BMX;Ultra Triathlon
Shanda Hill has never eaten meat or fish. She forayed into the world of cheese after leaving home at 18, but quickly dropped the dairy when she began training hard for triathlons in 2010.
“I noticed how much better my recovery was and my joints did not ache like when I had dairy.” A BMX-er as a youth, Hill ran her first triathalon in 2014, her first ultra triathlon in 2016 (which by definition is a race with a longer distance than Ironman), She suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2003 as a victim of a vehicular crash and has an extensive following of those she’s inspired with her vegan way of life and training.
Shanda is one of six women in the world to complete the gruelling Deca ultratriathlon CONTINUOUS in Switzerland and in 2017 set a world record for females by taking on two deca races in a single year. The Deca ultratriathlon Continuous totals a distance of 2,260 kilometres (10 ultra triathlons of 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run each).
Shanda is a lifelong vegan, a mother and unbelievably fit, strong and positive.
– Rick Jenkner (Nominator)
Age: 29; Years Vegan: 5; Sport: Rugby
Nick Blevins always felt he was an athlete who swam against the current by his own measurement of his attitude and training methods. This rationale carried through to his decision to become a vegan and now the owner of Beetroot, a Calgary company that makes and sells plant-based cheeses and yogurts.
Blevins, a Canadian rugby sensation, represented Canada in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England competing against 20 other nations.
“I started exploring a plant-based diet, at the urging and knowledge of my fiancé. Within weeks I started noticing a difference in my recovery … (I could) train harder and more intensely, more often … and sleep better at night.” He claims that his vegan-fueled lifestyle has even helped to clear up some chronic injuries.
We’re so hooked that we started our own plant-based cheese and yogurt company to help shine a light on living a plant-strong life.
– Nick Blevins
Age: 31; Years Vegan: 2; Sport/Activity: Personal Trainer; Ultra Running
Mandy Gill was initially a skeptic about becoming a vegan with the notion that being an elite athlete requires meat protein. That was two years ago. After research and application she now attests that “listening to what my body (needs) on a day-to-day basis … (I now have) better health, longevity and recovery time from workouts.” As a TV personality, keynote speaker and panelist throughout North America, she shares how she completed her first
80 km ultra marathon trail race, a mere five weeks after embracing veganism: “I was able to pack appropriate snacks, fuel fantastically both pre- and post-race and recover faster than I’d ever experienced. This opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities in fitness and life!”
Her commitment to her health and deep love for animals has empowered her to share her knowledge and personal transformation journey as one who struggled, hit bottom, rose back up and made choices to embrace survival – all a testament to her vegan lifestyle.
Mandy is living proof that you don’t need animal protein to be a super athlete. This girl runs ultra marathons purely on plants. So inspiring!
– Darren McQueen (Nominator)
Age: 28; Years Vegan: 2; Sport: Spin Instructor
Fraser Barke, a former Westcoaster is now a Torontonian, cross-trainer, motivator/coach and spin instructor. “When I became an instructor, I knew the rigorous teaching schedule and the athleticism expectations were high … this forced me to focus on my (nutrition sources) … I’ve been able to pinpoint elements in my diet that I’d lacked and have changed accordingly. Pretty much everything in the physical aspect of my life has been enhanced: my endurance has gone up. I find myself being more present and clear.”
Fraser is one-of-a-kind …he transforms others’ perspectives on wellness.
– Meisha Kerr (Nominator)
Age: 29; Years Vegan: 3; Sport: Ski Cross
Julia Murray, a World Champion Ski Cross medalist and competitor in the 2010 Olympics in her hometown of Vancouver, BC, has altered her sport to include mountain biking, backcountry skiing, stand-up paddling and kite boarding after ski cross took a toll on her knees. As a certified RHN,plant-based chef and vegan blogger, Murray has become an educator and an advocate of the environmental and nutritional advantages of being a vegan. She believes her recovery from surgeries and sports would have been better enhanced had she been vegan during those times.
With a strong urge to share her knowledge and embrace the world of delicious and colourful meals, she published Why Vegan on hookedonplants.ca and continues to share recipes, insights and philosophies over the past three years of her commitment to veganism.
“As long as the (vegan) message continues to be spread, the more Mother Nature will thrive, and the more animals will be saved … that is what it’s all about.”
I use my skills as an athlete and my nutrition knowledge to energize and fuel myself with plants and experience Canada’s backyard to its fullest potential.
– Julia Murray