Matt Sharpe of Victoria, named to the four-member Canadian Olympic triathlon team for Tokyo on Wednesday, thought back to where it all began.
“This is the culmination of the journey from that first race at age 10 in the Comox Valley,” said Sharpe, the 29-year-old native of Campbell River, who came down-Island to train and graduated from Claremont Secondary.
“Twenty years later I’ll be racing for Canada in the Olympics. It’s surreal. It’s a dream come true.”
Tokyo will be Sharpe’s Olympic debut after placing fourth with the Canadian mixed relay team at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. It is not only a time of reflection about the longer road taken, but also the shorter one over the troubled last year of the pandemic.
“It’s been a crazy journey to get here with the delay [of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to this summer]. It was not easy in a lot of ways,” said Sharpe.
The Canadian triathlon team to Tokyo will consist of Sharpe, Tyler Mislawchuk of Oak Bluff, Man., Joanna Brown of Carp, Ont., and Amélie Kretz of Blainville, Que.
Triathlon Canada is based in Victoria and all four have spent considerable time training on the Island.
“We have a really good team going to Tokyo,” said Sharpe.
The Islander will act as domestique to medal-threat Mislawchuk in the men’s race July 26, reprising their roles from last month when Sharpe set the pace that allowed Mislawchuk to win the World Cup race in Huatulco, Mexico.
“It’s clear Tyler is the guy and has proven himself,” said Sharpe, who has several career World Cup top-10 finishes.
“It’s not hard for me to be in the role of helping him. It’ll be elbows up [in the water against the other domestiques].”
The four Canadians will also contest the mixed relay on July 31 and appear to have the talent to be in the hunt for the podium.
“I am so happy and honoured to be named to Team Canada with three other athletes who I have grown up with and developed alongside in this sport,” said Mislawchuk. “I’ve trained with Jo, Matt and Amélie all at different points in my career so it will be awesome for the four of us to represent Canada in Tokyo together.
“Tokyo has been on my mind for a long time now. I’m chasing a performance in Tokyo that I can look back at in 20 years and be extremely proud of.”
Canada has won two medals in Olympic triathlon, gold at Sydney 2000 and silver at Beijing 2008, both by Simon Whitfield of Victoria. Sharpe is coached by Whitfield’s former coach, Lance Watson of Victoria.
“Lance has so much wisdom about the sport and a ton of experience,” said Sharpe.
Mislawchuk, only five years old when Whitfield struck gold in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House, said he was inspired by watching the Islander win silver at Beijing eight years later.
“Since Simon Whitfield won gold in the first Olympic triathlon, I’ve kind of just assumed that this is a sport Canadians are really good at,” Marnie McBean, chef de mission of the Canadian team to Tokyo said in a statement. “Tyler and the other athletes racing for Canada seem set to keep my assumptions based on fact.”
More than 75 Island or Island-based athletes will compete in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer.