Vegan Olympian Morgan Mitchell is a rulebreaker. The athlete turned heads when she went against the advice of many and began competing in 800m races when her forte up until then had been the 400m. She also challenges the age-old myth that meat is needed to be strong, fast, and successful in sport by outpacing her competitors (and her old PBs) on a plant-based diet.
Mitchell was just 21-years-old when she became an Olympian in 2016, running the 400m. That was two years after she decided to give up animal products in favor of a plant-based diet.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics, which took place in Rio, Mitchell competed in the 400m event. She could have easily continued on that track, so to speak. The runner had earned a name for herself as a 400m athlete and many expected her to snag a place on the next Olympic team for that event.
A change of heart saw the plant-powered athlete looking for something different. So she pivoted to the 800m, surprising coaches, fellow athletes, and spectators alike.
She set the goal of competing in the 800m at the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be in Tokyo. Mitchell declared that she didn’t mind about the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, which was just held in Doha, Qatar.
But the vegan athlete went a step further. At the Müller Games in London, Mitchell ran the 800m in 2:00.06, reaching the qualifying standard for the World Championships. This meant Mitchell spent her 25th birthday representing Australia in the 800m.
She made the semis but didn’t place in the finals. She wrote about the experience online. “Imagine less than a year ago you decide to move up to a new event. No one believes in you or your goals. You then place 3rd at nationals in a huge PB… 3 months later you qualify for the Australian team with another huge PB, and then at the World Championships you become the 2nd Aussie in 47 years to make it past the heats at a major championship meet. Would you be mad? Nah,” she said on Instagram.
“I exceeded my expectations this year,” Mitchell added. “Although it wasn’t the result I was hoping for, I think I’ve set myself up nicely for next year.”
Vegan Food and Athletic Performance
Mitchell didn’t plan her switch to a plant-based diet. Her partner at the time used to experiment with various diets (which was “so annoying,” according to Mitchell) but one day, he ditched animal products. Mitchell told LIVEKINDLY, “He said, ‘hey we really should go vegan,’ and for some reason, I just dropped everything that day and did.”
The change brought with it a boost in athletic performance. Going vegan “has helped a lot,” Mitchell said. “I recover a lot quicker than I used to. It’s easier to keep my weight down and I haven’t been sick at all!”
“My dietician also gave me the perfect meal plan to assist with heavy training days vs light so I know how much I need to eat and when,” she added.
It’s not uncommon for athletes to report improved recovery times upon ditching animal products. Competitive swimmer and six-time Olympic medalist Rebecca Soni swapped out dairy for plant-based milk. The change helped her to “recover faster and feel better,” she said in 2018. Dotsie Bausch was enjoying the benefits of her vegan diet when she won silver in cycling at the London Olympics. “I was recovering in half the time of my teammates, who were all 10 years my junior!” she said in 2017.
Mitchell’s plant-powered lifestyle has caught the attention of other athletes. Some have tried a plant-based diet for themselves and “are still vegan to this day.” Mitchell added, “I understand everyone is different so I try not to judge.”
Mitchell — who works and studies full-time (business and fashion marketing) on top of her athletic career — believes that veganism has a future, but the public’s shift will take “time and patience.” She said, “So many more people are alert and so many more restaurants and cafes now offer vegan options. I don’t think it’s going away any time soon which is great!”
‘The Game Changers’
The track star appears in the 2018 documentary “The Game Changers.”
The film was directed by Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by the likes of vegan filmmaker James Cameron, vegan Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton, and vegan actor Pamela Anderson. It aims to uproot “the world’s most dangerous myth” – that meat is necessary for protein and optimal health.
Speaking about the filming, Mitchell said, “It was cool! The crew were super fun to be on set with. It has become a lot bigger than I thought it would be, and they’ve added in a lot of new faces which is sweet!”
In the documentary, Mitchell is joined by names like former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, professional surfer Tia Blanco, strongman competitor Patrik Baboumian, and American football wide receiver Griff Whalen.