Barrhead's Tyler Chapman relives golden moment
Speed skater Tyler Chapman is so fast that by the time you finish reading this sentence he will be half way through a 111-metre race.
At the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games on Feb. 29, he timed 14.64 seconds in the 111 m final.
There was barely the width of a skate blade to separate him at the finish from nearest rival, Quebec’s Philip Ste-Marie.
Chapman was unsure whether he had won. Also uncertain were his biggest supporters at St. Albert’s Servus Place arena – parents Bill and Donna, sister Lauren and her daughter Jordis.
The 27-year-old from Barrhead had done well on one of the biggest stages in his seven-year speed skating career. Very well. But was it silver or gold?
After a wait that must have seemed like an age, Chapman, his family, friends, fellow Team Alberta athletes, colleagues at Barrhead’s Co-op and coach Rochelle Chamczuk could celebrate … he had won gold. Ste-Marie’s time was 16.046 seconds, more than a second slower.
Chapman received his gold medal from someone who knows all about winning: former Olympic swimming gold medallist Mark Tewksbury, who sits on the national Special Olympics board.
“It was a good week,” said Chapman last Monday after returning from the games. “I had many people cheering me on.”
Chapman, who also won two silver medals at the 2008 Special Olympics Winter Games in Quebec, said he shook a lot of hands following the division M1 race, which saw skaters aged 17 to 27 compete. He was also interviewed by CTV.
His father, who had been clicking his camera from the stands, described the post-race uncertainty.
“It was a photo finish,” he said. “It was so close that we could not be sure who had won. It was only when the results came up on the board that we knew Tyler had got gold.”
“Obviously, our family is very proud of him,” he added. “I think it’s also good for Barrhead.”
Chapman’s achievements didn’t end with gold since he also won a bronze medal in the M1 division of the 222 m race, clocking a time of 28.5 seconds over two laps.
He had the chance to add to his medals haul, but narrowly missed out in the 333 m race, finishing fourth, and was disqualified in the 500 m – considered his forte.
“I got off to a good start in both races in which I won medals. The start is very important,” he said.
“Overall Tyler was really excited about how he finished,” said his father, who was sitting four or five row back from the ice.
“It was also very exciting for us watching. I would say we were more excited than nervous.”
Chapman was among 78 athletes from across Alberta who took part in the Feb. 28 - March 3 games in St. Albert and Jasper.
It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and training in Edmonton under the eye of Chamczuk.
For Bill Chapman, who sharpens Tyler’s skates, it has meant many miles of driving, but it has been worth the effort.
He has seen his son develop from a hockey player into an outstanding speed skater since making the transition between the sports in 2005 after a coach spotted his potential.
“Tyler also plays sports like floor hockey, bowls and golf,” he said. “He’s really an all-round athlete.”
“He will train again next year,” he added. “We will talk to him to see what he wants to do and take it from there.”
Tyler’s preparation for competition involves keeping to a strict diet of fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. Getting enough sleep is also important.
It meant there were no wild, alcohol-fuelled celebrations after the double-medal triumph.
Not that Tyler’s Olympics experience was just about sport. He was also able to build friendships with athletes, watch different sports, and take part in social events at the Olympics village, such as karaoke.
“I had a really good time,” he said. “I got to meet different people from across the province. They treated us very well in the village.”
While speed skating competition may be over for now, Tyler is determined to keep fit during the rest of the year, using the walking track at the Agrena.
“I believe I can skate faster and faster,” he said.
His rivals are unlikely to welcome such words.
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