Chasing his dream across the world, coffee in hand
Mislawchuk aiming to perk up his results at World Triathlon Grand Final in Australia
There are more stamps in his passport than years on his birth certificate, and Tyler Mislawchuk is a thirsty traveller.
His drink of choice in Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Spain, Japan, Italy, Bermuda, China, Mexico, Switzerland, Brazil, Belgium or Barbados is always the same. Joe. Mud. Java. Brew. Jitter juice. High octane. Rocket fuel.
The 24-year-old triathlete from Oak Bluff, Man. is a certified caffeine addict. He travels the globe with a bag of beans, a grinder and an aeropress that are as important to him as his bike and a firm belief in an ability to swim, cycle and run with the top dogs on the world circuit.
“It’s kind of my thing. Whenever I go to a city, first thing I do is either look online to find a local coffee shop that roasts their own beans or ask a local. That’s usually your best source when you’re eating or drinking or looking for coffee,” he said last week from Victoria, where he had been training for six weeks.
“Most people dive into (Tim Hortons) pretty early in high school, but I didn’t start until after. I started because I was just exhausted from training and needed a pick-me-up and that was it. So I was probably 19 or 20 when I was in Spain and everyone else was drinking it, so it was the only thing to keep up socially.”
Keeping up competitively is also his thing and this has been a breakout year, with a podium finish in Belgium, a fourth-place result in Yokohama, and enough points on the season to vault him into eighth in the world rankings. He is now on the Gold Coast of Australia, where he will cap an already successful campaign at the World Triathlon Grand Final on Sunday.
Mislawchuk joins Canadians Matt Sharpe and Joanna Brown in the elite races, while 14 other Canadians will compete in junior, under-23 and para-triathlon events.
“It’s massive. It’s a big race for myself,” Mislawchuk said. “All I can do is prepare and stay healthy. I’ve done all the training, the hard yards you could say.”
Along that difficult trail he has made sure to stop and smell some roses. He celebrated his first major podium in Belgium just as he had promised himself he would.
“I always said to myself that no matter where my first podium would be I wouldn’t take it for granted because you never know when you’re going to be on a podium again. Sport has its ups and downs and you never know what’s around the corner.
“The biggest thing for me to do is just stop and realize what I’m doing. I’m so fortunate to be able to wake up every day and for my day job, go run, swim and bike and drink coffee. Not many people in the world get to do that. I have to step back and realize I’m pretty lucky to do this. Never take it for granted.”
He never took it particularly seriously at first, because triathlon was a means of staying fit for hockey, which was his teenage dream. But he fell in love with his new sport, which has taken him around the world and to the pinnacle, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. There is no medal to cherish — he finished 15th — but his memories are very good indeed.
“My coffee memory in Rio was me and my dad, the day after my race, at 6 or 7 a.m., we both couldn’t sleep, so we’re sitting there drinking a coffee on the bike course for the women who were going to race that day. We were soaking it all in.”
Sitting down with a coffee in hand as often as he does allows for reflection, and he has a pretty good handle on how he wants to approach his sport, live his life and affect others. One of his role models is basketball star LeBron James.
“He’s the best basketball player in the world, but he’s not just doing that and cashing the cheques. He’s making a difference off the court and people think that’s great. That’s how I’d like people to look at me. Yeah, he’s a good triathlete, but he’s just a good dude outside of sport. That’s something I put high value in.”
Mislawchuk doesn’t have James’ money to distribute to worthy causes, so he goes about it in the earnest and modest way he can.
“Whether it’s a 12-year-old kid who found me on Instagram and sent me a message, or someone at a race asking me a question, I try to be as helpful as I can. Strangers or friends.”
And as he knows, over a good cup of coffee, the former will often become the latter.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive stalwart Simoni Lawrence exchanges high-fives with the fans at Tim Hortons Field, who have fully embraced this year’s exciting, competitive team. The Ticats take a three-game winning streak into their showdown against the Stampeders on Saturday.
Tyler Mislawchuk of Canada has done well enough at events this year such as the ITU World Triathlon Series race in Montreal in August to be ranked eighth in the world.