Vancouver Island triathlete gearing up to go for gold in Tokyo

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Canada's Matthew Sharpe, who turns 30 in July 2021, races in the running portion of a recent international triathlon event. (World Triathlon - image credit)
Canada's Matthew Sharpe, who turns 30 in July 2021, races in the running portion of a recent international triathlon event. (World Triathlon - image credit)

Barb Sharpe has been her son's biggest fan since he raced in his first triathlon in Comox, B.C., when he was nine-years-old.

Inspired after seeing Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield win gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Matthew Sharpe showed up to race with an old mountain bike, a skateboard helmet and wearing an oversized red t-shirt.

Now, two decades later, he'll also be wearing red as he goes for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that, due to the global pandemic, begin July 23 of this year. The games start one day before the athlete's 30th birthday.

His proud mom will be watching from the family's hometown of Campbell River, B.C.

"My mom's certainly biased...but she is certainly my biggest supporter," said Matthew Sharpe, speaking to CBC's On The Island just days before heading to Japan.

There is one part of the race, however, where she might be pacing outside the house instead of paying attention to the event.

"I find it quite nerve-wracking when he is on the bike," said Barb Sharpe, singling out the cycling component of the event which also includes running and swimming.

Submitted by Barb Sharpe
Submitted by Barb Sharpe

Her son has been training for the last six years in Victoria, B.C. The last two years, with the COVID-19 crisis and the postponing of the Olympics for a year, has created uncertainty for Olympic athletes around the globe.

'Silver lining'

Matthew Sharpe said he did his best to just enjoy training as decisions around the games were beyond his control.

He said overcoming injuries in the past helped prepare him to be resilient.

"With covid we obviously had to make a lot of adjustments, I feel like I've gone through a lot of different challenging experiences within sport over the years including injuries and stuff," he said.

"I try to just find the silver lining in ... all of this and come out the other side the best I can and I think I did an OK job of that obviously with the support of my mom and everyone who is in my corner."

World Triathlon
World Triathlon

According to Triathlon Canada, the former 2010 Canadian Junior Champion battled a string of injuries over a three-year period that resulted in losing his national team status and funding. He pushed through the set-back and came back in to win silver at the 2016 World Cup.

Now he says he's prepared take on the world's top talent again.

"At this stage, there is not a lot you can do to influence the outcome. It's more about just kinda staying present and acknowledging that this is a special experience," said Matthew Sharpe.

Triathlon Canada/Facebook
Triathlon Canada/Facebook

And while there will be a Pacific Ocean between her and her son, Barb Sharpe won't be missing a thing.

There are three television sets ready for friends and family to gather around at the Sharpe household and plenty of red and white swag on its way to the house for fans to sport while cheering on their hometown hero.

"We are going to have a smashing-up good party that's for sure," said the proud mom who also now participates in triathlons after being inspired by her son.

According to the Tokyo 2020 broadcast schedule, the men's individual triathlon event takes place Monday, July 26.

The race consists of a 500 metre swim, 40 km bike ride and 10 km run and is completed with no breaks from start to finish. There are no heats — both the men's and women's events consist of a single race — and the first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner.

LISTEN | Matthew and Barb Sharpe talk about the family's road to the Tokyo Olympics:

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