Kenora parents watching son’s Olympic dream from half a world away

While millions of Canadians will be tuning in to the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on Friday, one Kenora, Ont., couple have an extra incentive to cheer for Team Canada this year.

Steve Mastromatteo and Janet Hyslop will be watching the swimming competition in Japan closely, as their son, 19-year-old Gabe Mastromatteo, is competing in four events at his first-ever Olympic Games.

Gabe, who has a long list of awards and medals to his name at the junior levels — including four medals and a record performance at the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg — has a connection to Winnipeg, as many Kenora residents do, having spent time training and competing with Manitoba swimmers in the past.

Hyslop — who also serves as Gabe’s coach — and Steve Mastromatteo told 680 CJOB they were disappointed they weren’t able to travel and watch their son compete in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they won’t miss a minute of his performance on TV as he takes part in an event his whole life has built toward.

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“Janet’s been a competitive swimmer for most of her life, and a coach for probably 98 per cent of that time also, so it came quite natural to our family,” said Mastromatteo.

“I don’t have much of a background in competitive swimming, but all other competitive sports. Janet’s taken our kids to the next level, and Gabe being an outlier really had the ability to embrace his passion for the sport.”

Read more: Manitoba’s Tyler Mislawchuk will compete in his 2nd Olympic Games

Hyslop said Gabe had a natural feel for the water from a very young age, and after trying and excelling at other sports, he put all of his focus and energy into swimming in his early teens.

At six feet one inch tall, the 19-year-old has an impressive wingspan that his coach/mom says contributes to his success in the pool.

“He does have an exceptional wingspan. He’s quite endowed in that way — he has super, super long arms,” she said.

“His other (advantage) is his legs. He’s very, very powerful, has been from the get-go, and in breaststroke, the stroke that he swims, that’s the key to the stroke. So right off, he developed a very natural feel how to move his feet and generate power from his legs.”

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Mastromatteo said while Hyslop handles the swimming advice, he’s been there for his son when it comes to talking about whatever else is on his mind, from clothing to podcast recommendations.

“My role in all of this is we talk about everything else…. We’ve had our regular chats on the go, and we really haven’t talked much about swimming,” he said.

“Just trying to keep him wherever he needs to be — the support he needs, we’re here for.

“We just follow his lead.”

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