Tyson Langelaar might have a hard time topping this year’s birthday.
The St. James speed skater celebrated his 20th on Feb. 17 with a gold medal win in the 500-metre long track event at the Canada Winter Games.
"It’s a good way to top off a birthday, I think," Langelaar said on Tuesday over the phone from Red Deer, Alta.
The medal was his second gold of the games and the result of a hard-fought battle. The 500-metre distance is won by the skater with the best time after two races — Langelaar was sitting in second behind Quebec’s Cédrick Brunet after the first round.
"The second race I tidied things up technically and executed a bit better," said Langelaar, who finished with a combined time of 1:14.73.
That’s the kind of performance Team Manitoba coach Tyler Williamson-Derraugh has come to expect from the skater.
"Some people have that ability to rise to the moment," Williamson-Derraugh said. "He’s one of those fortunate people who can be behind in a race and come through and succeed."
Langelaar’s birthday celebration continued beyond the podium on Sunday.
"We had a big cake at the dining hall later that evening and I think he had Happy Birthday sung to him about eight times from different teams, so that was a lot of fun," Williamson-Derraugh said.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Langelaar loved skating and decided to try speed skating after watching the sport on TV.
In 2017, he moved to Calgary to train with the Canadian national team at the Olympic Oval — one of the only covered long track speed skating ovals in the country.
"The constant accessibility of being able to train really has benefited me as a skater," he said.
Langelaar had a strong season leading up to Red Deer, which included placing second at the World Junior Long Track Championships in 2018, and had high expectations for himself going into the Games.
"My goal going into the Games was for sure bringing home a little bit of hardware," said Langelaar, who brought home a gold at the 2015 Canada Winter Games and was the first Team Manitoba athlete to medal.
"I’m honoured to represent Manitoba again, so being the first athlete to put some medals on our medal count is a really great experience for me."
By the time long track skating wrapped up on Feb. 21, Langelaar had four golds and one silver.
According to Williamson-Derraugh, Langelaar is strongest in the 1,500-metre and 1,000-metre distances — a correct assessment seeing as the skater took home gold in both events.
"His specialty is his ability to maintain high speed," said the coach. "He’s just a really efficient glider and he carries his speed really well and he’s got a great aerobic system."
The biggest challenge of the week was the 5,000-metre race. Langelaar was ahead of distance favourite Kaleb Muller from Alberta for most of the race, but started to show his fatigue in the last three laps. Langelaar finished with a time of 6:56.36 and took home silver.
"He really wanted it, he was definitely disappointed in not achieving that gold, but it’s also good for him to face that adversity," Williamson-Derraugh said.
After the Games, Langelaar was headed back to Calgary with his sights set on the next level of competition.
"The 2022 Olympics are definitely on my radar and I think if I keep training towards it, it might be a possibility," he said.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.