We were first introduced to Victoria’s Matt Sharpe way back in 2006, where, as a budding performance bound athlete, he represented Zone 6 at the BC Summer Games where he earned a Bronze and Silver medal. Springboarding on to represent BC at the Canada Summer Games, Matt help secure a Gold in the Team Relay, and finishing 6th in the individual sprint triathlon. As a racer that went through the BC development system, Matt is now chasing after a berth to represent Canada at the postponed 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. We recently had the good pleasure to sit down and chat motivation and training amid a COVID-19 world.
With social isolation, a ban on mass gatherings and limited travel, how is COVID-19 affecting your training and what are you doing to overcome these obstacles?
I’ve definitely had to make adjustments to my training. I’ve tried to be more mindful around training and being around other people. Back in March when the lockdown was first instituted I tried to run on trails earlier in the morning or later in the evening. I was also riding pretty much exclusively on the trainer. As more information about the virus has been discovered, and BC has loosened its restrictions I have brought a bit more normalcy to my training. But what remains is my commitment to keeping my distance from other people out of respect.
I have also altered the nature of my training. Typically this time of the year I would be in full-on race mode with a lot of intensity. At the moment I have dialed things back a bit to work on my aerobic base and strength. I’m enjoying the different kind of challenge and I recently set a new 20’ best power on the bike!
You were chasing a berth for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Now that the Games have been officially postponed, how has your mindset changed, if at all? Was it a massive shock?
It was extremely frustrating when they first postponed the Games and it was definitely a huge shock. I have essentially been working towards this goal for the past ten years. I felt like I was on the cusp of making my first Olympic team. After they announced the Games had been rescheduled to 2021 it gave me something tangible to work towards. I understand that they could still be cancelled, however I can only control my attitude. My goal is to be in a mindset that is preparing for the Olympics, but knowing things can change on a dime.
What do you miss most about the ‘regular’ season?
I really miss racing and trying to compete with the best athletes in the world. Not surprisingly I am also missing the people who I typically get to spend time with during this time. The ITU circuit is global but it honestly feels kind of like a family. There are so many great people who I compete with, who I work with, and who volunteer for these events. I am looking forward to the opportunity to see everyone again and give them a hug when it is safe to do!
Moving back to 2019, you raced in the Tokyo test event, the same venue that will be used at the Olympic Games. What are some of the unique features of the course in Odaiba Marine Park that we can look forward to? Is there a particular athlete the course will favour?
The course is generally flat but certainly not basic. There a ton of turns and technical sections that allow for opportunities to put pressure on other athletes. To me it feels like racing on a cyclocross circuit as it rewards athletes who know how to handle their bike and handle big spikes in power. The heat that athletes will face on race day will create an entirely different kind of stress that will be compounded if they cannot handle themselves on the bike.
The Olympic Games will see the introduction of the mixed relay – each team member completes a 300m swim, a 7.4km bike ride and a 2km run before handing off to another teammate. How will tactics differ for this event, if at all?
The tactics for this event are no different than any other competition, you have to stay near the front! The relay is a super exciting event, but it can be all over at a moments notice. If a teammate cannot hold on to the front pack than there is typically no opportunity to get back on.
Canada is coming off a breakthrough season with a goal of being in the medal mix at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, what countries do you see as being our top competition?
We had an amazing race in Tokyo where Tyler Mislawchuk became the first Canadian to win an Olympic test event. I was proud to play a role by keeping him out of trouble on the swim and delivering him first into T2 coming off the bike. In my mind Tyler is fully capable of winning again in the big show. There are definitely some tough competition from the French, Norwegian, Australian and Spanish athletes.
You are a graduate of the BC development system, starting as a young participant, going on to compete at the BC Summer Games, Canada Summer Games, then moving on to the national and international circuits. Now you are chasing a spot to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. Looking back, what would you tell a young Matt, given the experience you have now?
Yes I am super grateful to have had the opportunity to develop within Triathlon BC’s exceptional development pathway. I almost feel like I won the birth lottery being born and raised here. Looking back I would probably tell myself to not push yourself as much during training. I was very frequently injured through my junior/U23 years and I know if I had listened to my body a little more than I would be in a better position today. Training consistently over many years is like investing. It compounds over time. I only learned that in the past few years. No session is more important than being able to train the next day/week/month.
Jumping back to the current environment, what are some of your favorite workouts you’ve done in social isolation?
I’m the kind of athlete that doesn’t have too much trouble getting the sessions done on my own. I remember training in high school, heading out my door on a raining January morning at 6AM for some hill reps. During the lockdown I’ve enjoyed getting to ride on Zwift. I’ve also recently made a coaching change. I am now working with Lance Watson. He’s introduced me to some different sessions than I am used to including longer tempo runs and longer hill reps.
Thanks for spending some time with us Matt, we’re sure all of our readers will be cheering you on and watching you on your journey to Tokyo!