Former Varsity Blue Zack Chetrat paints a vivid picture of life after U of T. Chetrat, who graduated with a B.A. in economics and political science in 2014, qualified for the Pan American games and will be competing in the 200-meter butterfly competition as a member of Canada’s swim team.Chetrat is also an entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of The Elite Swim Clinic, a platform for professional swimmers to train and build on one another’s skills.In an interview with Hart House, Chetrat reflects, “It’s funny — I’m 24 and I know what it’s like to be old.” The three-time winner of U of T varsity athlete of the year award added, “The longest my career could extend is Rio 2016.” The average swimmer has a seven-year career, which often peaks at some point in the early twenties.“Sports teaches you a lot about yourself and about how to set a goal and go for it,” adding that for him, sports are not only about personal advancement, but about building and advancing an entire team of individuals.Chetrat’s plan now is to compete at the Pan Am games with his fellow athletes.“The games are an opportunity to get behind our city. A lot of the athletes are from Toronto. They train in Toronto, and now we all get to perform at our best in front of a hometown crowd,” said Chetrat, referring to the growing fan-base of the games.
Varsity Blues alumna Donna Vakalis is also set to represent Canada at this year’s Pan Am games in the modern pentathlon competition.A combination of multiple disciplines, modern pentathlon incorporates fencing, swimming, equestrian, running, and shooting events— all of which Vakalis and her competitors will perform in just one day of competition.The 35-year-old received her M.A. in architecture from U of T in 2009 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering.In her time as a varsity athlete, Vakalis competed in multiple sports, including cross-country and fencing, which could help to explain her choice to pursue a multi-discipline sport like the modern pentathlon.“To make a perfect pentathlete you’d never want to start… off as a pentathete,” explains Vakalis, “you can be the best in one [event] and if you’re not good enough in the others it undermines your ability to have the best overall score.”The seventeenth Pan Am games marks an opportunity for Vakalis to improve upon her 10th place finish at 2011’s Guadalajara games.
Another former U of T multi-sport athlete, Kate Sauks, was also nominated to represent Canada at the Pan Am games in the women’s lightweight double sculls event.Being a member of the women’s rowing team is nothing new for Sauks. As captain, she led her varsity team to multiple OUA and CIS banners.Sauks received her B.A. of physical and health education from U of T in 2007, and has recently received her PhD from the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences.Team Canada won eight medals in the rowing competition in the 2011 Pan Am games in Guadalajara. This is a legacy that Sauks, with several national accolades and medals under her belt, will seek to improve upon.