TRU welcomes Paralympic swimmer Tyler Mrak

WolfPack swim team head coach Brad Dalke with Paralympic swimmer Tyler Mrak, who is attending TRU’s business program while also swimming with the Kamloops swim team and the WolfPack. (Marcela Arévalo/The Omega)

Paralympic swimmer Tyler Mrak is settling into his new life in Kamloops as he starts TRU’s business program while swimming for the Kamloops swim team and training with the WolfPack.

The 18-year-old is originally from Surrey and has been swimming for eight years. When choosing a university, his dedication to the sport of swimming was a big factor, but Mrak mainly chose TRU because of how close all the facilities are to each other.

Mrak is unable to drive due to a vision impairment called achromatopsia, which affects depth of field, sensitivity to light and causes colour blindness.

“Everything is so convenient here. I walk five minutes to the pool or five minutes to my classes,” Mrak said.

This January was the first month Mrak dived back into training full-time after taking a four-month break following the Summer Paralympics in Rio last summer.

“Getting back into swimming for the first two weeks was kind of hard since I haven’t been training much,” Mrak said.

Although getting back into training was difficult, Mrak isn’t finding too much trouble balancing school with swimming. By taking a lighter course load of three classes, he says it creates a healthy balance. This doesn’t mean he isn’t busy, however, as he trains eight times a week for two hours, often twice in one day.

“I think one of the bigger challenges was getting used to cooking all my own meals and actually living on my own,” Mrak said.

Training for Mrak is a bit different, of course. Swimmers often use pace clocks on the walls of the TCC to time themselves when trying to improve their speed. However, these clocks are too far away for Mrak to see. Instead, Mrak uses the black lines on the bottom of the pool as well as counting his strokes to navigate his way.

Mrak’s coach, Brad Dalke, helps him as well.

“It’s been a learning process,” Dalke said.

Being more descriptive and specific are important habits Dalke has been trying to implement while he is coaching, he said, since his usual methods of pointing or showing swimmers directions visually doesn’t work for Mrak. Dalke says he also has the other swimmers help Mrak as well with directions or pace counts, encouraging a team dynamic.

“It’s been good for the kids, and he is a very talented swimmer,” Dalke said

Mrak sees more competition in his future and will continue to train and compete.
“The 2020 Paralympic Games is the long-term goal but in the meantime, we have world championships and other swim meets,” said the athlete.