What does an Olympic athlete read when he’s not training?

By Anne Boys-Hope – 

Books about history and Zen are at the top of Olympian Michael Tayler’s summer reading list but he won’t exactly be getting lost in a good book for a few more weeks. First, he will compete in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

The Westboro resident, and two-time member of the Canadian Olympic team, is currently training for the slalom kayak event in Rio. It’s a challenging sport that requires skill and speed (and an equal amount of courage) to maneuver quickly through a series of gates in fast-moving rapids. Only one athlete per nation can qualify to compete in the Olympic event, and not every nation qualifies.

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Photos of Michael Tayler by Ellen Bond

“It is incredibly tough just to qualify for the spot, and to be representing Canada is such an achievement and an honour for me,” says Michael, who spoke to the Kitchissippi Times on a short stopover home from Rio in July.

He is thrilled to have qualified for the Olympics, not once, but twice.

“In London, in 2012, it was completely shock and awe. I couldn’t even believe it happened just because I didn’t expect it,” explains Michael. “This time, it was really fulfilling after four years of training since the last Olympics.”

Michael started paddling at summer camp when he was eight. Growing up in Westboro, he attended Churchill Alternative School and Nepean High School while pursuing his passion for paddling with the Ottawa River Runners. Now 24, he is five-time Canadian Junior National Champion, a senior member of Canada’s canoe/kayak national team, and of course—an Olympic athlete.

Since qualifying in June, Michael has been in Rio training on the artificial whitewater course built for the Olympics.

“It is a lot of train, hotel, eat, repeat,” he explains. “It’s really important to learn the water there and to be prepared for it so that when we go back [to compete] we will know what we are up against.”

After the games, Michael says he is looking forward to spending some downtime at the family cottage in Quebec. When he’s not out on the lake paddling, he plans to read History’s People by Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

He chose the first book based on his love of history. In June, Michael graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in history and law from Carleton University. Now he’s keen to pursue books beyond his course reading list and at a more leisurely pace.The second book was recommended by his mother Christine.

“It’s a classic. She said I had to read it,” says Michael.

The summer Olympics run from August 5 to 21. Michael’s event begins and ends in the first week—from August 7 to 11.

His parents, Christine and Jim, and sister Kathleen, will be in Rio to watch him compete. His Kitchissippi fans will be watching and cheering from the comfort of their living rooms.

Follow Michael’s Olympic journey online at michaeltayler.ca, twitter.com/michaeltayler92 and facebook.com/MichaelTayler92.

By the way, did you catch our photos from Michael’s recent visit to Dovercourt Recreation Centre? See them all right here.

This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.

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