There are two things our city never lacks: fascinating people and interesting experiences. In this series, the Star interviews locals you know (and locals you should know) about their Toronto.
Toronto bobsledder Cynthia Appiah only spends about half the year in her hometown. It’s time for her to see her family, enjoy the city, train on the track and in the gym, and do some charity work.
“This year I took a bit of a step back just to catch my breath. I felt like I was really excited for the last seven years, trying to get to these Olympics,” Appiah said of the Beijing Games in February and her volunteer work with the Blue Jays Care Foundation Home Run Fellows program, an after school program that includes mentoring.
The intensive training paid off: in Beijing, Appiah finished eighth in the two-man bobsleigh and monobob debut. (She’s also collected a slew of medals at international luge events since 2015.)
For the 2022-23 winter season, she’ll be working with a new brakewoman who will likely need a full season to get up to speed – literally – so she’s excited to compete in both events. “I’m sure I know my monobob will be fine. And if my two wives need to take a step back and we need to move forward, I’m okay with that.
Appiah is especially thrilled that the team is not just traveling in a bubble in Europe and will be competing again in North America. “So we can bring friends and family over to watch, which is so great. North American tracks are our best tracks. We are doing our best here, so that gives us an advantage this season.
But when she’s at home, between training for her physical and mental sports too, it’s a big Jeopardy! fan who regularly leans on his anecdotes and participates in the online competition Learned League “Appiah hangs out with friends or her two younger sisters, who are her roommates. They live in the northwest part of the city and are passionate about good food and urban nature.
Where do you like to go in your neighborhood?
I live with my sisters, not far from where I grew up. When the weather is nice and cool on a summer evening, we head for Weston Lions Park. At the start of the pandemic, when everything stopped, we athletes still needed a place to train. So I started using this park. There is a large green space near the soccer field and I would do my spring exercises there. I just pretended it was a sprint track.
Good food in the neighborhood?
There are a few cafes that have opened recently in this area. There are Black Cat Espresso Bar, which has a nice patio and they do great breakfast sandwiches. It’s not the healthiest, but it’s a nice treat once in a while. Also, we love El Almacen Yerba Mate Café. You wouldn’t think coffee and empanadas go together, but they really do. They make them daily and if you’re there as soon as they open, you’ll find the freshest batches.
I love Somali restaurant Xawaash. If there’s one thing I’m going to promote in this city, it’s Somali cuisine. I feel like I’m sleeping on it, but it’s one of the most delicious and best seasoned dishes I’ve ever had. Think shawarma, but 10 times better is Somali food. There’s a Bahamian restaurant called Old Nassau. I usually get conch dinner. My sisters love a new build-your-own pasta restaurant called Dough – they ordered from them.
Are there any good places outside of your neighborhood that you like to go to?
I like Marie Curtis Park on the beachfront. It’s just a nice open space to relax. I had a few family picnics there. There’s another park I haven’t visited in years called Rowntree Mills Park in North York. The church where my family goes, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, still has its annual picnic in this park. I haven’t been there in years because it’s still August and that’s when I’m in Calgary. But I have so many memories of this park. There is always a huge barbecue and my uncles used to argue about who seasoned the meat best. And there were races. It’s fun to watch your parents lose; you are so embarrassed. Myself, I always came second, there was this girl who caught me at the end. It was so demoralizing.
Are there any Toronto foods you really miss when you’re away?
I’m a huge, huge bubble tea fan. I haven’t had any for the past few weeks because I had to cut back on my diet. But generally, it is a treatment three times a week. It’s so addicting. It’s so sweet, but I love it. So if I’m in the northern part of North York, visiting my chiropractor, there’s a place called Xing Fu Tang. This is your high quality stuff. If I’m in Vaughan, there’s a place called TP tea. If I’m not willing to shell out $7, I’ll go for bubble tea at a chain like chatime Where gongcha.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION