Travel is a key word for Gabe Mastromatteo. This week, the Swim Shark member is attending a Pro-Series meet in Des Moines, Iowa. That's after spending the better part of February in Florida.
"That was pretty fun," he said, after training with Team Canada and Team Ontario.
Last year's travel took him to Fiji, and this year's itinerary could include visits to San Diego and Hungary. It's all part of his long-term goal is to reach the 2020 Olympics.
"It's a fun time, if you put the work in, that's for sure. It's not fun, if you don't work. Then you don't swim fast," he adds, noting he's in the pool seven to nine times a week.
At 17, Mastrommatteo has been swimming at a high level for several years. For him, the demands of the sport have become routine and just part of life.
Now in Grade 11, he says his keeping up with his homework, even while he's on the road, although he admits some of his teachers might disagree.
Nevertheless, the results in the pool have certainly been impressive. His Swim Canada bio already includes:
- a gold medal at the FINA World Junior Championships
- four medals at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, including three gold and a Canada Games record
- bronze at the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials
Along the way, Mastrommatteo has also received the Victor Davis Award for the last three years from Swimming Canada, in order to help him continue with his development.
This year, he's also the recipient of the Tihanyi bursary, along with his coach and mother Janet Hyslop. The bursary was set up by Alex Baumann's coach, in an effort to help swimmers and their coaches overcome difficult situations.
Along with the struggles of trying tostay in Kenora, while competing at a national and international level,the family is also trying to manage all the costs and logistics of associated with all the travel.
There are times Hyslop says it's been tough to find the right balance.
"The most difficult part is working through that day-to-day environment," says Hyslop. "There are times when I need him to step up. I need him to be better than he is being in the pool. It's being able to do that -- push hard, be relentless, get what I need from him -- then leave the pool, hop in the car and go home. I have to leave that (coaching part) at the pool, and he has to leave it at the pool," she says
At times, she admits the 'stinging criticism,' is part of the training, along with the words of encouragement.
"I don't sugarcoat it. It is what it is," she says. "That's not how you motivate kids -- by making them feel good all the time -- you have to make them see the reality."
In a Swimming Canada article, Mastrommatteo says he understands his mother is doing her job as a coach by getting him to do what's needed for him to succeed, adding his mom always has his back, especially at competitions.
In February, Hyslop was also invited to attend a special workshop with the top women coaches in the country. In the long run, she's hoping to see more top roles for women in the sport, rather than secondary roles or assistant coaching positions.
Along with the 54 members of the Swim Sharks, the family dynamic for the Mastromatteos is made more complicated by two siblings, who are also promising young swimmers.
Emilia is just a couple of years younger, and she made her first appearance at the Canadian Junior Championships last year. However, she's currently recovering from shoulder surgery, and she isn't expected back in the pool until fall.
Younger brother Tazio is now 11. His athletics also include hockey and soccer, but he's already travelling to attend meets with other club swimmers.
Swim Canada trials for Gabe Mastromatteo are set for early April in Toronto.
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