February 13, 2018

Canada Dave, former Mayfield student, current teacher, fulfilling a dream come true

Dave Greszczyszyn​ has heard the comments over and over again on why he shouldn't, despite wearing a helmet, be riding down a hill head first, and lying face down, on a flat sled at a rapid speed.

Nicknamed "Grizz" and "Canada Dave", likely because people have botched up pronouncing his last name, and not just throughout his impeccable career as a winter sport athlete, Greszczyszyn is adamant that he is fulfilling a dream-come-true.

At 38 years of age, competing in the demanding and dangerous sport of Skeleton​, is not something the average person would pursue – especially going through the one and a half kilometres course clocked at more than 120 kilometres an hour.


Quite articulate, having devoted demanding hours to training and excelling in the sport, Greszczyszyn will also be the oldest individual competing in the Skeleton event at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea from February 9 to 25.

"I am a risk-taker and not one to give up," said Greszczyszyn. "It's just fantastic to set your goal on achieving something, work very hard at it, overcome injury and setbacks – and then see it all come about."

A multi-sport athlete as a student at Mayfield Secondary School​, Greszczyszyn once played the trombone at Mayfield while also competing with the school team on a Scottish Rugby Tour. He's officiated amateur hockey, and in Alberta training, faced with scarce funding, turned to driving school buses to try make ends meet.

A Kinesiology graduate from Brock University​, with his Teacher's Certification in Australia, Greszczyszyn taught in Korea. He was also fortunate to secure a teaching opportunity that would lead to a fulltime job with the Peel District School Board.


Fascinated with a sport he had watched as a teen on television, it was 10 years later that he took the leap to training and competition – and that required a hiatus from the classroom.

His focus on seeking an opportunity to try represent his country at the Olympics, with no guarantee of it happening, still meant a great deal to him. He knows there are others not prepared to make those kinds of serious sacrifices.

"I had been fascinated with this level of sport for years," said Greszczyszyn, who resides in Brampton when he's not training in Calgary. "It wasn't until I turned 27 years old, that I had this chance, this desire, to become a Canadian Skeleton athlete​, compete for Canada and go as far as I could."

It was only a year later, physically and mentally pumped, that Greszczyszyn was good enough to compete in a series of North American Cup races. Temporarily left behind was his fulltime science and physical education teaching job.

Since then, he has progressed in a grueling sport to the European Cup, Intercontinental Cup, and now as a three-time Canadian champ, is ranked among the Top 10 Skeleton athletes in the world. In December of 2017, he had his first taste of major international success after winning a World Cup bronze medal in Winterberg, Germany.


"You have to trust your instincts and I had this desire to make the National team where I could compete for Canada," said the current No. 1-ranked Canadian Skeleton cathlete. "You have to plug away because you just don't become an Olympian overnight.

"I know people thought I was absurd leaving my job, and Mayfield was a positive experience for me, but this kind of international competition won't last forever. I continue to find time to complete the minimum number of days required to remain as a supply teacher hoping that I could return to fulltime in Peel."

In 2012, Greszczyszyn could have packed in Olympic hopes after suffering a torn hamstring while over-training. Despite excruciating pain, he focused on rehabilitation and therapy. A year later, there were some bad races, he was taken off the Canadian World Cup team, and depression was taking over.

"I kept pushing myself, I feel young and am healthy," he said. "My inner confidence tells me that as long as I am a top Canadian, I'm going to keep competing at the elite level because one day I am not going to keep up. The goal is always to be the best - or the best I can be."

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