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Matt Hallat

SFU Business student Matt Hallat is gunning for gold in the Paralympic Games at Whistler.

Downhill demon

March 11, 2010

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For Matt Hallat, chasing a dream is all downhill now.

Hallat, a member of the 2010 Canadian Para-Alpine ski team, has spent four years on the slopes gearing up for a big week of competition at this month’s Paralympic games at Whistler.

The Squamish resident took a hiatus from his SFU Business studies to focus solely on training. He hopes to resume his classes in the fall with some hardware around his neck or a personal best time tucked into the record books.

"Here we go," says Hallat, who got his first taste of Paralympic competition in Torino, Italy in 2006.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime—to ski in one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in front of my family and friends, with the support of my home country, on the ski hill I grew up on, across the street from where I live. It’s been my goal since I was a young child."

Hallat has had a successful year, riding high on two seventh-place world cup finishes—one in Whistler, another in La Molina, Spain. The reigning Canadian National Slalom champion, Hallat is brimming with confidence.

"I’ve always been passionate about sports," says Hallat, who lost his right leg at the age of six to a form of cancer known as Ewings Sarcoma.

He quickly adapted to a prosthetic and grew up playing a variety of sports. But everything changed when he stepped into a ski.

"It’s a different world when I’m on the ski hill," he says. "When I do the normal tasks of the day I am a disabled person. But when I step into a ski, I can ski with anyone."

At age 14, Hallat made the national development team and decided that skiing would be his life. He enrolled in business at SFU to explore, among other things, the marketing side of sport.

For now, it’s the race that matters. "Training through January (at B.C. ‘s Panorama ski hill) gave me some good momentum," says Hallat, who still hopes to shave a little time off his fastest speed.

He will compete in several races: the downhill (March 13), the super G (March 14), the super combined (March 16), the giant slalom (March 18) and the slalom (March 20).

UDPATE (March 22, 2010): Hallat made it onto the cover of Georgia Straight (and SFU News) but his best finish on skis was No. 11 in the standing downhill at Whistler. He finished 17th in the first run of the men's slalom and 31st in the second run. He didn't start in his giant slalom event, placed 18th in Super-G, and did not finish in the Super Combined.

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