Three-time Paralympian Matt Hallat, 13-year member of the Canadian Para Alpine team, announced his retirement from competitive ski racing on April 10.
At the young age of five, Hallat, of Vancouver, BC had his leg amputated due to Ewing’s sarcoma. Hallat began ski racing shortly after that, but it was during a fun race at nine years old that his passion and love for the sport was confirmed. One of his out-riggers got stuck in the start gate and the only conclusion he could draw at the time was sabotage. Hallat laughs now but states, “I was mad which I believe shows my competitiveness which has translated throughout the rest of my career.”
Hallat has been with the Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team for 13 years, participating in three Paralympic games, a two-time IPC World Cup podium finisher and most recently the slalom bronze medallist at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships.
Hallat’s last run as a competitive ski racer was Slalom at the Sport Chek Canadian Nationals Championships at Mont Ste. Anne, QC last month, where he finished third.
“Surreal. It was a great run but it’s a strange day,” explained Hallat. “You spend a lifetime getting ready to go ski racing, certain emotions come with that. I felt a certain way in the start, but I knew today it was the last time. It is funny I still wanted to perform really well, but at the same time I wanted to sit back and enjoy it. I think I got to do a little bit of both today, which was kinda cool.”
“Over the years Matt has become a team leader,” explained Jean-Sebastien Labrie, Head Coach of the Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team. “He has always been level-headed and calm. Matt’s compassion for his teammates is incredible, which shows when he would provide guidance to his younger teammates. It will be different without him around next season, we’ll miss having him around.”
Hallat begun ski racing at the ripe age of 7 years old. He was seventeen when he was named to the Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team. “Ski racing has changed my life,” said Hallat. “It has guided who I have become not only as an athlete but as a person. Being on the team has been the only consistent thing, besides my family, since I was 13 years old.”
Upon reflecting on his progression as an athlete, Hallat beamed with pride when reflecting on the progression of his sport over the years. There is no denying the hard work he or his fellow teammates and coaches have put in to be the dramatic cause of the evolution of the Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team.
“We’re not the same team today that we were thirteen years ago. We have evolved as athlete’s, at an incredibly fast pace and I think we sometimes forget that,” said Hallat. “Canada has such a strong program, we’re one of the world leaders in para-sport and I believe there is a great young crop of people, both men and ladies’ in the upcoming generation of champions. We will see what they can really do in the next four to eight years. It is incredible to be part of that, to witness the continuing evolution.”
Over the years Hallat has taken on the challenge of contributing to and helping develop the next generation of para-alpine athletes. For three years, he has lead the Redefining Limits camp, a three-day camp providing up-and-coming para-athletes a glimpse at what it means to be a committed member of the national para-alpine team. His hope is he can begin to educate young athletes on the importance of a strong mental game, in addition to strength on the hill, drawing from his career learnings.
“Matt, has always been a calm, collected individual who became more detail oriented as his career developed,” said Brianne Law, Athletic Director of the Canadian Para Alpine Ski Team. “Following an injury in 2012, he realized that his performance in skiing was all about the mental game. Since then, he has worked harder than anyone to perfect his mental plan and execute it when it mattered most.”
With retirement, Hallat is looking forward to taking time with his family to rest, relax and reflect. His desire for continued involvement in Para Alpine remains, he just needs to determine the way he can still share the knowledge he has acquired.
As Hallat reflects on his career, he would like to share his gratitude with his coaches and teammates, “Thank-you, but at times ‘thank you’ does not seem to be big enough. I wouldn’t be here without you.”
- Three-time Paralympian
- Bronze Medalist 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships
- Two-time IPC World Cup Podium