By Brendan Shykora
Vincent De Haître 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.
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 He had more bad news for De Haître: Canada had withdrawn from Tokyo 2020.
Two days later, the upcoming Olympic 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 2020 Summer Games as a track cyclist and the 2022 Winter Games as a speedskater – the postponement of the Tokyo Games makes for a dilemma.
There was a lot to think about, but De Haître 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 Haître 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 per cent of my speedskating 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 Haître told the Sportspage in early June.
Now in Calgary with the skating team, De Haître 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 Haître 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 (in a discipline that is not on the Olympic programme).
The Ottawa Bicycle Club product was also an alternate for the Canadian team pursuit squad (featuring fellow Ottawa native Derek Gee) that placed 12th but comfortably clinched one of the eight available Olympic berths.
With two Winter Olympics under his belt by age 23, De Haître has proved to be one of the world’s best in speedskating too. In 2017, the Gloucester Concordes athlete was a World Championships silver medallist and ranked #2 overall for the men’s 1,000 m on the World Cup circuit.
Competing in both Tokyo 2021 and Beijing 2022 would put De Haître in 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 speedskating 238 days apart. De Haître is on track to break that benchmark with just 181 days of separation between games.
“It’s something that drives me,” De Haître underlines.