Vincent De Haitre was getting dressed for a bike ride on the morning of March 22 when he got a phone call explaining that he may have reached a fork in the road of achieving two of his longtime athletic goals.
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The Cumberland native’s Cycling Canada coach was on the other end of the line in the U.K., where he was stuck. Because of the fast-escalating fallout following the novel coronavirus, he struggling to find a flight back to Canada. He had more bad news for De Haitre: Canada had withdrawn from Tokyo Olympic.
Two days later, the upcoming Olympic 2020 Games were postponed until 2021. The global pandemic forced the entire sporting world into hibernation, sending athletes aloof from their typical role as distractors, while much of the world hunkered down at home.
For De Haïtre a 26-year-old dual-sport athlete whose personal plans included appearing in both the Summer Games as a track cyclist and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games as a speed skater the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games makes for a dilemma.
There was a lot to think about, but De Haitre decided to keep his dual-sport Olympic goals intact. Competing in two Olympic sports less than seven months apart risks spreading himself too thin, but De Haitre and his coaches have drawn up a plan to keep his body in shape for both the oval and the ice. Fortunately, the physical demands of cycling and skating are similar, and training for the latter already involves a fair amount of time on the bike.
“Right now, I’m on 90 percent of my speed skating program and then whenever I’m on the bike I kind of ride as if I was still a cyclist, which means slightly different training zones and different technical focuses,” De Haitre told the Sports page in early June.
Now in Calgary with the skating team, De Haitre is training on his own most of the time, although peeled back pandemic protocols are starting to allow for more group sessions.
“We still have to stay apart from each other and we can’t share equipment, but at least now we’re getting some visual feedback from the coaches,” said the 3-time Ottawa Sports Awards male athlete of the year.
De Haitre has already proven he can push boundaries on the bike. At February’s Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, he set a Canadian record for the 1 km time trial at sea level, placing 4th in the world. The Ottawa Bicycle Club product was also an alternate for the Canadian team pursuit squad that placed 12th but comfortably clinched one of the eight available Olympic 2020 berths.
With two Winter Olympics under his belt by age 23, De Haitre has proved to be one of the world’s best in speed skating too. In 2017, the Gloucester Concordes athlete was a World Championships silver medalist and ranked #2 overall for the men’s 1,000 m on the World Cup circuit.
Competing in both Tokyo Olympic 2021 and Beijing 2022 would put De Haitre in a rare company. In 1968 back when Winter and Summer Games were each held in the same year Canadian athlete Robert Boucher competed in cycling and speed skating 238 days apart. De Haitre is on track to break that benchmark with just 181 days of separation between games.
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