Cyclist Tristen Chernove is among qathet region’s elite athletes, having won world championships and Paralympic medals in cycling sports. He will now be an inductee into the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame on June 11.
Chernove, 47, has retired from elite competition after having been a 13-time world champion and four-time Paralympic medalist. He is afflicted with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a degenerative neurological disorder that affects the nervous system, that classified him as a Paralympian and adaptive sports cyclist.
Chernove said he has loved bikes his whole life.
“It’s always been a core part of my activity,” said Chernove. “In fact, I still vividly remember the day I learned to ride a bike at Willingdon Beach park. I was four and my dad had this little white rally Mighty Mouse bike. He took me to the top of the hill and let me go a couple of times until I figured out how to make it all the way to the bottom, and away we went.”
Chernove said he had this fascination that the community was situated on Highway 101 and he knew, even when he was eight or nine, that it was the longest highway in the world, so he thought about packing up his bike and riding to South America.
“That, of course, didn’t transpire but I did ride a lot commuting on the highway because my mom lived south of town and my dad lived in Lund,” said Chernove. “I would often ride between places.
“I just had an early passion for it and was very involved with the BMX club when the track got built in Powell River.”
However, as he became older, he tried other outdoor activities, and white-water paddling took over.
“I started representing the nation in paddle sports and I won some world championships,” said Chernove. “My whole life was centred around paddle sports, competing in all various forms, such as kayak, canoes, outrigger and dragon boats. I went to the outrigger and dragon boat world championships in Sydney, Australia, and I had some gold medals from those experiences.
“But cycling was always a constant. When my neurological disease started to cause much more significant degeneration, I retired from paddling after the world championships in 2009. I was losing some of the ability in my hands and arms, and especially in the cold, so I couldn’t grip my paddles well enough.”
Chernove said when he received his CMT diagnosis, it was “pretty grim.” He said the neurologist who he saw gave an indication that things would deteriorate “quite fast.”
“I decided I wanted to make the part of me that would fail first as strong as possible,” said Chernove. “I stopped spending any time paddling and put all of my focus into weight training and cycling.”
He said that happened between 2009 and 2011; he wanted to build up his legs as much as possible.
Chernove said in terms of his advanced cycling, he was discovered by a videographer who was filming him for a marketing campaign for Alberta tourism.
“He put me in touch with the national team in 2014,” said Chernove. “At the very beginning of 2015, I went and raced and won at nationals and that’s kind of how it all started.”
Once he became nationally ranked, his international competitive career began. His training intensified and he was entered into track world championships in Italy, where he won his first three world championships. He said having a lifetime of sports at a high level prepared him and built up a robust base, allowing him to transition into cycling effectively.
“It was a talent transfer, more than anything,” added Chernove.
Over and above the world championships, he had the opportunity to participate in the Paralympics.
“There’s nothing like a games; it was gratifying, and also, overwhelming” said Chernove. “It all happened so fast. Aside from getting married and having children and a few other landmarks, it’s definitely one of the most cherished memories of my life.”
Although he has retired from elite competition, Chernove continues to train hard.
“The whole competitive thing was incredible but the best part was that all of this training and work was effective in delaying the degenerative nature of my disease,” he explained. “I was told there was going to be this big drop-off and a dramatic trajectory of the loss of my mobility.
“I don’t think I’m much different today than I was in 2011. I think cycling and training has been very effective in keeping me mobile and enjoying the lifestyle that I cherish.”
Chernove continues to compete in cycling sports. He said he was in Montana, racing at the state championships recently, and he reached the podium in the three events he entered. He is heading to Kansas for the world’s biggest gravel race, where all the world tour professionals congregate.
“I’ll be lining up with 2,000 racers,” said Chernove. “That’s a one-day race, all off-road, covering 330 kilometres through the dirt roads of Kansas. I’m just racing against everybody these days.
“I like seeing other people have success and I’m enjoying the whole atmosphere of people going forward and discovering how good they are.”
Chernove said his youngest daughter is now becoming interested in cycling and is big enough to fit on a small mountain bike.
“I’m hopefully going to be able to ride with her lots this summer,” he added.
Chernove will be making a return to the qathet region. His daughters will be attending Brooks Secondary School in September and his wife will be living here most of the time. He will be living in the community half of the time, splitting between here and Cranbrook.
“I’m coming back,” he said. “It will be neat to see my girls in the rebuilt school that I went to.”
Chernove said he thinks it’s great that City of Powell River is making moves to have better active transportation options and support.
“That will be something I would like to help with if I am back in the community enough to contribute,” said Chernove. “There is so much potential.”
Chernove said being inducted into the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame is “really a special honour” in his hometown and “it feels incredible.”
Chernove and eight other individuals, along with the 1997 Powell River Regals, will be inducted during a ceremony at Hap Parker Arena next weekend.