'Breaking barriers'

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

Hundreds of years from now, Canadians will know the name Kyle Shewfelt.

The tale of the little Calgary kid who made it big, winning the Olympic gold medal and changing Canada into a gymnastics country, hopefully will live on for centuries.

"I'm breaking a lot of barriers," the gymnast said yesterday after being announced as Calgary Booster Club male athlete of the year.

"Winning the first Olympic gold for gymnastics ... I'm the first gymnast to be Canadian male athlete of the year.

"Now I'm the first to win the Booster Club award. Hopefully, I'm not the last. Hopefully, this will inspire generations of gymnasts to reach for the ultimate goal of winning an Olympic medal."

To become Calgary's top athlete, all Shewfelt did was best a guy named Jarome.

"In terms of beating a hockey player, I have a lot of respect for all athletes, professional and amateur," said Shewfelt, a fan of Jarome Iginla who was second in the Booster Club's mind.

"I'm glad that an amateur athlete is winning. We work really hard and it's nice to have recognition."

Speed skater Cindy Klassen was named the female winner, edging University of Calgary volleyball player Joanna Niemczewska. They will be honoured, along with sportsman of the year Russ Parker, March 14 at the Hyatt Regency.

This latest award continues the dream for Shewfelt, who just a year ago was a relative unknown outside the realm of gymnastics.

But his life changed forever last August thanks to a perfect routine in the floor exercise at the Olympics.

He performed in the clutch with the world watching. He made everyone wearing the Maple Leaf proud. He also created a rush of enrollment to gymnastics clubs across Canada.

But Shewfelt's sportsmanship after having a second Olympic medal in the vault taken from him is what makes him so special. He has never whined a judging deficiency kept him from bronze.

Every gymnast who follows in Shewfelt's path will owe the 22-year-old some credit for their success.

"I don't get overwhelmed by that," Shewfelt said. "When that day comes that you're no longer on the planet, you have a legacy. I hope to continue that legacy for the rest of my life. I want to contribute to amateur sport and gymnastics until I'm very old."


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