Two-time World Masters mountain bike champ, doctor
By David Burke | Images By Joern Rohde
Name: Cathy Zeglinski
Occupation: Physician and founder of Empowered Med
When reached for a recent interview, Cathy Zeglinski is in her element — well, one of them. From atop her paddleboard on Whistler’s Green Lake, she explains that her “main sports” are downhill and cross-country skiing, ski touring, mountain biking, road biking, paddleboarding… the list goes on.
A two-time World Masters mountain biking champion and Sport B.C.’s Masters Athlete of the Year for 2020, Dr. Zeglinski is in the process of adding another title to her résumé: founder of Empowered Med. She is bringing together health professionals (including world champions and Olympians) to offer life coaching that aims to — as the name suggests — empower participants of all ages to de-stress and optimize quality of life through outdoor play. The plan is to welcome the first guests this fall.
Zeglinski, 57, won her first World Masters title in 2013 but was then diagnosed with sternoclavicular pectoralis, an injury (and surgery) from which few had previously returned to competitive form. Thanks partly to some great coaching from Mike Charuk (Squamish-based registered massage therapist) and Trevor Hopkins (Ironman triathlete, multi-discipline cyclist, Whistler local) and others, she returned to the top of the World Masters podium in 2019.
“There’s always something to challenge yourself with and when you do that, it’s just so rewarding,” she says.
You grew up in Manitoba and took your medical training there and in Vancouver. How did you wind up setting up your practice and living in Whistler?
My soul belonged to the mountains from the time I visited Banff as a toddler and grew up alpine skiing. I am fully a “mountain woman,” and it was with a single-minded purpose to move to B.C. the minute I graduated from medical school. It was a long journey to finally establish here and be able to call Whistler home. Pure gratitude.
You’ve competed at a high level in alpine and Nordic skiing, road and downhill mountain biking, and paddling sports. Do you have a favourite and if so, why?
My nickname was the Energizer bunny. Without lots and lots of intense physical activity, I find it hard to quiet my mind and relax. Sport re-energizes me and I love speed. I learned early, being a little person, that skis and bikes let me rip and charge with the boys as an equal. They are all are [favourites]. If I had been introduced to sports with an engine, I might not be in one piece today!
What is the athletic achievement of which you’re most proud?
One, the Tour de France Feminin 1987, a 21-day race that accompanied the men’s pro Tour for four years in the ’80s. I was quite new to international racing and it was pure mental training that got me through. I had just started a self-learning sport psychology exploration as it was in its infancy, it opened my eyes to how we can retrain the brain.
Adult racing is so vastly different, with combining family, intense work, and running my own medical clinic. I am [also] super proud of winning World Masters in 2013 and 2019, as I had some significant injuries along the way. I am a terrible patient, so I have used my sufferings to be a better doctor.
What’s your favourite thing about Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor?
I am enamoured with the “can do” attitude, that when you state your desire to do anything — change the world, or just a little piece of it — everyone steps up with support, encouragement, and never, ever says it’s not possible. We are a place for dreamers who create action that impacts the world.
Favourite Whistler hangout — when you’re not working or pursuing one of your many sporting passions, that is?
Anywhere in nature, without any technological devices: just silence, water, trees, river, lakes… We have so many great restaurants; our food here rivals anywhere I have travelled, so picking just one is a challenge.
Favourite Whistler bike trail? Lord of the Squirrels, a weekly jaunt solo or with a training buddy. We ride, start to finish, in a three-hour circuit, and I just can’t get enough of the alpine-to-lake downhill without stopping.
Visit empoweredmed.com for more information.