How this former Uber driver became a Canadian Olympian

TORONTO — Have you ever wondered what your Uber driver does when they’re not behind the wheel? Or who they will become? Here in Toronto, one Uber driver juggles ridesharing with representing Canada at the Olympics.

Gavin Smellie is a Jamaican-born sprinter on Team Canada. Smellie competed in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and then again at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

“Just getting there alone was a big process. I went through the NCAA,” Smellie told The Brandon Gonez Show, “When I got there it was obviously a dream come true, especially in 2012.”

He says it’s an honor to represent Team Canada at the Olympics, and an amazing journey for him as an athlete. He lived in Jamaica until he was 14-years-old and moved with his family to Etobicoke.

Smellie played various sports as a child and found a particular love for soccer. When he transferred schools he was forced to try other sports, including volleyball, basketball, and track and field.

“I had no clue how fast I really was until I got on the track,” Smellie said.

“I said to myself that if I actually trained for this then potentially I could get somewhere,” he explained.

He told The Brandon Gonez Show that it was difficult to find and maintain work with his schedule as an athlete. Smellie was even laid off from multiple jobs because of his lack of availability.

“But if you really want something it will make you hungry,” he explained.

This is how Smellie started working for Uber.

“With this flexibility with Uber, it definitely helps a lot. If I want to train from nine o’clock to 12 o’clock I can go to work beforehand, or after,” Smellie explained.

He calls this summer’s Olympics an interesting one. With pandemic restrictions in place and interaction with other athletes limited, Smellie says he spent a lot of time with teammates during the games, sharing a room and playing dominoes together every night.

When talking about his next steps, Gavin says he’s working with the next generation of athletes.

“I’ve started coaching kids, kids that need speed in any sport can hit me up,” he explained, adding “I find a lot of kids don’t really have the proper form to run and stuff like that so they find themselves getting hurt.”

He currently runs his coaching business on Instagram but told The Brandon Gonez Show that he’s working on setting up a website.

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