In this 30th edition of Women in Business, women were interviewed who are employed in front-line positions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olympian Malindi Elmore brought more than just a record-setting title to UBC Okanagan when she became the head coach for cross country teams just before the start of the pandemic.
The accolades that follow the Kelowna native are endless and her coaching resume keeps growing after the success she’s had not only with her athletes but personally as well.
Elmore participated in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece and the 2021 games in Tokyo, Japan as well as many other prestigious events like the Commonwealth and Pan American Games. In the fall of 2019, right after being nominated for the B.C. Sports coach of the year, the UBCO Heat hired her to become the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country teams.
Just a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and challenges came with both coaching and training.
“The pandemic gave the opportunity to build our team culture,” said Elmore. “This year we were able to compete and have practices in a more normal way that we just had this really strong, positive team culture already established.”
The team also raced toward victory when the competition was on again in the fall of 2021. Elmore celebrated with her teams as the UBCO men’s cross country team finished sixth at the Canada West championships while the women’s team won silver at the Canada West championships and advanced to the USPORTS championships where they finished eighth. Racer Lauren McNeil finished second, capturing silver in the race and becoming the first person in school history to win a medal at the USPORTS cross country championships. Elmore states that it’s a combination of things that led to the team’s success.
“I think we certainly have a really strong team culture and a really great group as kind of the backbone of the team,” said Elmore. “We came in and realized that we already had a special group of athletes.”
On the team is Joanna Brown, who came to UBCO because of the opportunity to have Elmore as her coach. Brown also participated in the 2021 Olympics alongside Elmore.
“(Joanna) was a leader on the team both in terms of performance and your natural leadership abilities,” said Elmore. “She just reached out to me and was considering her options for university after this year at the Olympics and we had a couple of conversations and obviously finding if it was the right fit for her and she ended up coming here.”
However, on top of coaching, Elmore found her own challenges with getting ready for her second Olympic games.
“It was harder in some ways. It was more the uncertainty,” Elmore said. “I didn’t travel anywhere to race. In Canada, it was a lot stricter than other places so I didn’t see people I was racing against. I had the option to go to the U.S. to race a bit but with two young children and the two-week quarantine, it didn’t really make sense for me from a family perspective.”
Elmore, who holds the Canadian record marathon time, came ninth in the women’s marathon at the 2021 games.
She hopes to partake in the 2024 Olympic games in Paris saying, “Never say never, you never know.”
Since the fall, the training has continued for Elmore and her teams as they continue to strive for more.
“We train year-round. I was training with the crew this morning. That’s actually one of the win-win situations for me, I get to do the runs with the team which I love. They’re a committed group.”
Elmore sees the challenges from the last two years as an opportunity to grow.
“Obviously there are challenges but I think where we can find opportunities, where things change, is where we really have success.”