"It's partly physical, but it's so much more mental," Mr. Kay said of his trip, a six-week ride from St. John's to Victoria to raise awareness of Tibetan human rights and to encourage Canadians to reflect on the Olympic spirit, particularly China's responsibilities as host country, to uphold those rights. He stopped Monday in Ottawa.
Mr. Kay, 28, originally from Peterborough but now living in Kingston, was a member of Canada's rowing team from 2001 to 2003 and won a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 2003. An avid cyclist, he was inspired to undertake the trip after seeing the Dalai Lama speak in Ottawa last October, an event hosted by Canadian Olympic gold medallist Mark Tewkesbury.
"I thought that I had something unique to offer, considering my past as an athlete."
He said he wants to let Canadians and their political representatives know that Canadian athletes are concerned about human rights in China.
Mr. Kay said the "false dichotomy" that suggests the Olympics is only about sports and not politics, is simply not true.
He said China made a commitment to improve human rights during its bid to host the Games, and the Olympic charter commits countries to uphold fundamental ethical principles, but China has not yet shown a commitment to those ideals and, in fact, has increased human rights abuses since winning the bid.
"We need to be reminded of that, without taking attention away from the Games themselves."
Mr. Kay is supported by the Canada Tibet Committee, which is dedicating each provincial leg of Mr. Kay's tour to a person who has suffered human rights abuses in China.
The Ontario leg of Mr. Kay's tour is dedicated to Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen and ethnic Uyghur - a Muslim minority group in northwestern China - who was arrested in Uzbekistan two years ago and transferred to China, where he has been accused of terrorism and sentenced to life in prison.