The 2016 Paralympic Games are set to set to run from September 7-18 in Rio de Janiero. Over four thousand athletes from more than 160 countries will compete in 526 medal events in 22 sports. The Canadian Team is comprised of 155 athletes competing in 19 sports. One of those Canadians is a young, up and coming cyclist from Calgary, Mike Sametz.
Sametz trains at CSI Calgary with head coach of the Para-Cycling Program Phil Abbott. In addition to training, Sametz also pursues an education in business and kinesiology at the University of Calgary. In his final preparations for the Paralympic Games he also trained at the 2015 Pan Am Games venue for track cycling track in Milton, Ontario.
Sametz started cycling seven years ago when some friends of his parents told them about the para cycling program at the Calgary Olympic Oval. From the very beginning, Sametz, who has cerebral palsy on the right side of his body, was integrated with able-bodied cyclists and competes regularly in both able-bodied and Paralympic competitions. "He's a model for integrating para and able bodies athletes, which in the past was not always the way things were done," says Abbott.
Usually quiet and mild-mannered off the bike, Sametz is fiercely competitive once racing starts. "His personality on the bike is completely different," observes Abbott. "He's very shy except when he's racing. He likes to win and to be the best but doesn't like the attention. Nobody would guess he's super competitive."
Sametz himself keeps his competitive drive alive through setting big goals. "When I first started cycling, my goal was always to go to Rio," he says. "I'm a very dedicated person and when I find a goal I want to achieve I'll do everything I can to achieve it."
At 20 years old, Sametz is the youngest member of the para cycling team heading to Rio to compete for Team Canada at the 2016 Paralympic Games. He's also younger than most of his competitors, who tend to range from 30-40 years old. His age however, has not held him back - to date his major accomplishments include a silver medal in the Individual Pursuit at the 2015 Parapan Am Games and a bronze medal in the Individual Time Trial at a 2016 World Cup in Belgium.
According to Abbott, Sametz is well poised to reach the podium in two of his four events. "If all the stars align he could get third in the Individual Pursuit and third in the Individual Time Trial. He's definitely within striking distance," says Abbott.
Sametz is more modest in his predictions, preferring to focus on what he needs to do to perform well in Rio. "The last three months I noticed myself getting better," he says. "I'm going to try and do my very best in all my races. My competitors are not new to me. They are the same guys I've raced against at World Cups and World Championships. I know where I've placed before and want to improve on those placings."
CSI Calgary is proud to support Team Canada Para athletes. Other CSI Calgary supported athletes to watch: Jenn Brown and Alister McQueen in para athletics; Ross Wilson para cycling; Morgan Bird, para swimming; Stefan Daniel, para triathlon; Chad Jassman and Arinn Young, wheelchair basketball; Zak Madell, wheelchair rugby; and athletes from the women's sitting volleyball team Angelena Dolezar, Leanne Muldrew, Jennifer Oakes, Shacarra Orr, Heidi Peters, Tessa Popoff, Amber Skyrpan, and Katelyn Wright.
The Opening Ceremonies for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games kick off at 4:30pm MST Wednesday September 7, 2016.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto