Canada’s Vincent De Haître is a double threat — Quadzilla competes in both Summer, Winter Olympics

Officially, there are 36 instalments in the Godzilla movie franchise. Whether in the homeland of everyone’s favourite radioactive monster or in Hollywood, directors haven’t yet run out of opponents for the big guy.

Fresh from knocking off King Kong in his latest outing, maybe Godzilla fancies switching it up, taking his first run at a Canadian challenger. To make things easier, Quadzilla is already in Japan.

Vincent De Haître’s gargantuan legs may mark him out as a different life form but the Ottawa native is, in fact, just human. A human who happens to have a real problem finding comfortable trousers.

“The downside to it all is trying to get good pants,” smiled De Haître. “You want a waistband that’s neat but then larger at the glutes and quads. You want them to taper down or else you’re just wearing like crazy, floaty, old-man boot cut jeans. So … joggers. I wear a lot of joggers and shorts. It’s hard. You don’t always want to wear a belt because if the pants don’t taper back in to your waist, you end up with all this excess material bunched above your butt.”

Luckily, Team Canada uniform suppliers opted against bunched-butt boot cut jeans for De Haître’s Olympic debut in Tokyo’s Izu Velodrome on Monday. Well, it’s not quite his debut. Call it a second debut. Because while spending any sort of quality time chatting with the 27-year-old will confirm that he is a warm, engaging, focused but very funny human, the life journey he has set himself is nothing of the sort. It’s superhuman. And then some.

Vincent De Haître the track cyclist will take on the world with his Canadian pursuit team Monday. Just 180 days after Tokyo’s closing ceremony, Vincent De Haître the speedskater, who represented Team Canada on the rink in the Winter Games of Sochi and Pyeonychang, will do it all again at Beijing 2022. Around the rings in a breakneck six months. At least his legs are up for it.

“Growing up, I was always not that great at anything really,” this relentless dual Olympian told the Star with a straight face. “I always just tried to find ways to use the tools that I had to make up the difference. Nothing was given along the way. Nothing was easy.”

Nor will it get any easier. De Haître is not the first Canadian to complete the winter-summer double. He’s the 13th. Remarkably he doesn’t face the shortest turnaround. That belongs to Sue Holloway, cross-country skier in Innsbruck in February of 1976 and canoe sprinter that summer in Montreal. However, he will be the only one trying to pull it all off in the midst of a global pandemic and, with the greatest respect to Holloway and others in the less recent past, at a time when elite, high-performance sport has never been more demanding.

“We’ve been working really hard on it,” De Haître says of the sports science approach to his quest. “I think we’ve learned a lot not only about me as an athlete but how sports interact with each other. I think the physios find it almost motivating, inspiring in a way that like, they want me to be able to do it. I’ve almost given them the challenge.”

De Haître, who has been based in Calgary for almost a decade now, spent the winter season speedskating. Due to chronic mechanical issues at the Olympic Oval, he trained for a time at an outdoor rink in Red Deer, Alta. In spring his apartment, with bicycles mounted to every inch of wall space, became an elite-level lockdown spin studio. But balancing the sports hasn’t been easy. He admits “putting the body through hell.”

“Because in cycling, you actually want to strain your back and in skating, you want to round your back, things have got tough,” he said. Tough, apparently, is sufficient a term to cover him not being able to make it out of bed on three different occasions as his back adjusted from one sport to the other.

But this has always been his way. He is neither a speedskater nor a track cyclist but an athlete, first and always. Devout determination is his most versatile skill.

“In my first meeting with the cycling coaches, I made sure they knew that I’m not here to participate, I am here to compete,” he said “I’m not here to do anything else. So if I’m not on par with what I should be, you need to tell me right away, because I have other things I could be competing in.”

The Star caught up with De Haître before he’d left Calgary for Tokyo in the days when a punishing heat dome had turned Western Canada into a sauna. He had just lost three per cent of his body weight on a training cycle despite drinking four litres of water in the saddle. These are the costs and De Haître doesn’t even check the bill.

He wishes he had more time to see his family in Ottawa but knows they understand. He endeavours to make as much quality time as possible for his girlfriend, Olympic fencer Alanna Goldie, also in Tokyo. There are other hopes and dreams but they get boxed up for now. 

“I’ve had all these goals that just were in the way, that’s how I saw it,” said De Haître. “In the way of me achieving what I want to achieve. Sometimes I wish I could just do more shenanigans, you know. But then I realize I’ve got to go to the Olympics. I get to compete at the highest level.”

De Haître will endure all there is to endure at the Izu Velodrome alongside Derek Gee, Michael Foley and Jay Lamoureux as Canada’s men try to follow the trail blazed by its track endurance women, medallists in London and Rio. He had a special word for the team’s alternate Adam Jamieson, from Barrie.

You ask him just one more question and then another and he runs with them, those quads not showing an inch of strain. So you ask him about rest. When will there be rest?

“Well, 2022 isn’t the end for me personally,” he said. “The goal is to get to 2026. Now whether there’s another in there — 2024 — depends on how well things go and where the cycling is at and, you know, who knows after that. And after 2026. Maybe bobsleigh? I’ve always liked the idea of ski cross.”

And on and on Vincent De Haître goes. Godzilla will have to wait.

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© 2024, Vincent De Haître. Athlète olympique canadien multidisciplinaire. Créé par: Chabo Communications & Design