By RACHAEL FREY
It wasn’t just winning gold at the 2004 Olympics that made Calgary gymnast Kyle Shewfelt a Canadian sport legend. Though the artistry and grace of his gold medal performance set a standard for international gymnastics, it was the Olympic event he didn’t win that landed him in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
At the 2007 World Championships, a slight landing miscalculation snapped bones in both of his legs just 11 months prior to the 2008 Olympics. Shewfelt beat almost insurmountable odds to recover and compete in the Games. He didn’t win another gold medal, but his comeback story was an international inspiration.
“I enjoy being a role model,” Shewfelt says. “I always try to be a good citizen and to help others reach their potential. If my actions can inspire someone to do the same, then perfect.”
The mission of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, located on the 1988 Winter Olympics grounds, is to use stories like Shewfelt’s to motivate others to be the best they can be in their own lives, says the facility’s president and CEO Mario Siciliano.
“One of the misconceptions is that a sports hall of fame is just for the sports fan,” says Siciliano. “It actually appeals to everyone, because the stories are about people, and those life journeys are relatable to all of us whether we’re aspiring athletes or not.”
Another common misconception is that the hall is all about dusty sports memorabilia. Not so, says Siciliano. “What catches most people by surprise is just how vibrant and interactive and technological it is,” he says. “As soon as you walk into the building, you’re immediately enveloped by technology.”
Eleven themed galleries, including one each for the Olympic and Paralympic games, feature exciting video, photos and artifacts that tell the stories of Canada’s sports heroes as well as interactive exhibits that immerse visitors in the sporting experience. These allow visitors to test their mettle against the champions in immersive virtual game simulators. Shadow box with Lennox Lewis, race a wheelchair against Chantal Petitclerc and get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 racecar with Jacques Villeneuve. Or, if you’re more of a Don Cherry than a Wayne Gretzky, try calling the shots in the Be An Announcer interactive.
The Great One
Siciliano’s favourite artifact is part of a temporary exhibit on display until June 2014 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the World Hockey Association. It’s the first professional hockey stick used by Wayne Gretzky at age 16 as a WHA draftee. An unknown at the time, Gretzky’s name is misspelled on the stick.
“He was certainly a hero of mine growing up,” Siciliano says, “and it’s fascinating to see this artifact and to grasp just how completely unknown he was and how he came to change the game and became the best hockey player who has ever lived.”
Chasing the Dream
Shewfelt, who is now a performance coach and motivational speaker, offers advice to anyone dreaming of capturing their own spot in sporting history.
“Success is something that whispers within,” he says. “It is about performing to your potential. Being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall Of Fame is just a by-product of doing what you love, working hard, setting goals, showing up with a positive attitude and relentlessly chasing your dream.”