After some bad luck and several heartbreaking fourth-place finishes this season, Oak Bluff native Tyler Mislawchuk finally got to stand on the podium.
Last weekend in Antwerp, Belgium, the 23-year-old triathlete finished on the podium at a World Cup event for the first time in his career, as his time of 58:17 put him behind only Belgium’s Jelle Geens and New Zealand’s Tayler Reid.
"It should’ve been done before, but I was pretty stoked with that finish," Mislawchuk said about his first podium finish.
"It was nice to finally do it, even though I knew I was capable for a while, I just hadn’t put the pieces together, so that was really exciting."
Mislawchuk thought he had a good shot at reaching the podium the week before at a race in Leeds, England, but while on the bike he hit a pothole and his bottles of water and energy gels went flying, forcing him to withdraw from the competition.
He also came close to reaching the podium at races in April and May, but just missed out, finishing in fourth at both events.
In the final 400 metres of the race in Belgium last weekend, Mislawchuk and three other competitors pulled away from the pack. Mislawchuk was determined to make sure things ended differently this time.
"There was four of us left with 400 metres to go and I was thinking in my head, ‘I’m not finishing in fourth place again.’ It’s the worst place to be in sports," said Mislawchuk, who represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"Obviously, you’re so close, but you don’t get near enough recognition even though you’re only a second off, as people usually only remember who is on the podium. It’s a cruel part of sports, but it made me work that much harder to work in those final few hundred metres."
Mislawchuk’s series of unfortunate events prior to the race in Belgium made it that much sweeter and he made sure to soak it all in when he got called up for his bronze medal.
"I enjoyed my time on the podium. I won the celebration. I may not have won the race, but I definitely won the champagne celebration," said Mislawchuk, who’s been training in the Netherlands this year.
Mislawchuk is beginning to hit his stride with two years left until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
He’s currently ranked 10th in the world rankings and at one point this summer was as high as fifth. He hopes to finish the summer in the world’s top 10 and that’s his main concern right now — not 2020.
"I’m an athlete that really has to focus on the moment. Two years from now is a long way away and it’s a long way to think about a goal. I think about day-to-day training goals and then those lead into small-based goals, which then lead into bigger performances at the Olympics," he said.
"The Olympics are one day every four years, but you have to train every day for four years for that one day. It’s better not to think of it until you get too close, as you can get caught up in the wrong things. I’m thinking about how I can be a better athlete every day, not be a better athlete for the Olympics."
At the 2016 Games, Mislawchuk was the youngest competitor in the triathlon. He ended up in 15th place, which is even more impressive considering he raced on a broken femur and didn’t even know it until after the Games had ended.
Mislawchuk believes in two years he will be ready to make a big jump at the Olympics and he hopes his podium finish in Belgium is a sign of things to come.
"Triathlon is crazy. It can be cruel, it can be wonderful, it can be everything," he said.
"I’m trying to live on the high of last weekend and keep that rolling. Hopefully, I can keep the positive vibes going. You just take every race stride by stride."
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Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.