ROAD TO RIO “Pressure is just a noise that I don’t tend to listen to.”
TYLER MISLAWCHUK IS a young man on a bold mission. The 21-year-old upstart from Winnipeg is pushing hard for a spot on Team Canada for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and, after a 10th place finish at the ITU World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi in March, his goal seems to be within reach.
“Finishing 10th in Abu Dhabi was a real confidence booster for me,” said Mislawchuk. “My preparation was ideal and I felt really good out there on course. It was a great start to the year, but I know I am capable of even better results in the near future.”
Mislawchuk competed in his first triathlon at age 15, purely as a cross-training exercise for hockey and soccer after watching Simon Whitfield win silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Showing early success and a genuine love for his new sport, Mislawchuk dreamed of representing Canada in triathlon. Armed with a coach and a structured training program, his fitness, technique and knowledge blossomed and, in 2011, he began competing internationally, including a trip to the ITU World Championship Grand Final as a junior. In 2012 he was ranked first in the Canadian Junior National Series and won a silver medal at the Pan-american Junior Championships that same year. In 2013 he won a silver medal at the Canada Games, where he was joined on Team Manitoba by his sister Madison, a rower. Later in 2013, as part of Triathlon Canada’s National Development team, he made his World Cup debut on home soil in Edmonton.
“It was just amazing to be racing a World Cup race in front of all the maple leaf flags and cheers,” he said. The following year he competed in various Pan American Cup, Oceania Cup and European Cup events and, in 2014, his efforts were recognized by winning the Canadian U23 Triathlete of the Year award. In 2015, Mislawchuk made his ITU World Triathlon Series debut and, in only his third start on the elite circuit, he crossed the line 10th in London, a result that made him the highest-ranked Canadian male on the ITU rankings at the time.
Currently, he is halfway through a degree at the Asper School of Business, part of the University of Manitoba. Capitalizing on his young age, ever-improving performances and this being an Olympic year, though, he opted to put school on hold to pursue triathlon full time. He’s in his first year as a member of Triathlon Canada’s national team. He’s coached by Jamie Turner and training with the Wollongong Wizards on the southeast coast of Australia alongside a host of other standout Canadian triathletes. Much of the early part of 2016 has been spent on the road, intermittently using Australia and Spain as home bases for training while simultaneously racing across five continents in pursuit of that Olympic spot.
“Currently Canada has two male Olympic spots in the sport of triathlon with a possibility of getting a third,” he explains. “No males have yet been selected to the team as the criteria states you need two top-eight finishes on the WTS circuit, and no one has achieved that at this point. It’s super competitive just to make the team.”
Of that there is no doubt. To even make the start line in Rio, he is up against a stellar group of very determined athletes. “To get myself on the Olympic team it comes down to simply racing well under pressure,” he explains candidly. “Pressure is just a noise that I don’t tend to listen to. Sticking to my key processes allows me to tune into what really matters going into the big races. Qualifying for the Olympics has been a dream since I was kid, especially after watching Simon Whitfield compete in Beijing. Everything I do on a daily basis goes towards making that dream a reality.”
Kerry Hale is a freelance journalist from Squamish, B.C.
Mislawchuck crossing the line at the 2015 Pan Am Games