Two-time Olympian and gold medallist celebrates another milestone

Lucas Makowsky convocates June 9 with a double major in chemical engineering and economics


Don McSwiney

They don’t come often, those rare moments in life when you get to officially close the book on one chapter and start on the next. This has been one of those years for Lucas Makowsky, a speedskater, two-time Olympian, gold medallist, world championship medallist and, after the June 9 convocation ceremony, a graduate of the University of Calgary with a double major in chemical engineering and economics. 

In May, Makowsky put a bow on his skating career. On a perfect Alberta spring morning, he sounds at ease with his decision. “If I did continue to skate, I know I wouldn't be fully committed 100 per cent,” he says. “That's all it took to realize that it was time to retire. When you are trying to push yourself to be the very best that you can be, if you're not fully committed or fully invested in that pursuit, especially when you're at the top of the sport like that, then you're not going to be able to be the very best that you can be.”

Complete details: Convocation Week at the University of Calgary June 9-13

“Being the very best I can be” is Makowsky’s mantra, kind of like Spiderman’s “with great power, comes great responsibility.” As it turns out, Makowsky believes in Spidey’s saying as well. In fact, he can be a difficult man to pin down because he makes a point of using his public profile to make a difference. Having just flown in from Vancouver, he was headed off to surprise the kids at Keeler Elementary in Calgary as part of the Classroom Champions program which pairs Olympians and Paralympians with schools across Canada.

“The message is about being the very best that you can be, no matter how that stacks up against others," he says. "You can't control what other people do or how good other people are.

“Fortunately, for my career, my very best has gotten me to the top in many respects. That's where I found a lot of joy in my journey both on and off the ice, in school as well, as opposed to determining whether or not your career was successful solely based on one single result.”

A life-changing moment in Vancouver

For Makowsky, his very best was captured in a magic moment during the Vancouver 2010 Games, when he and his team won the gold medal in speedskating team pursuit. That single result was likely enough to write his legend, and Makowsky says the moment was in many ways life-changing.

“To reach the top of the podium in the team pursuit like we did was — it's hard to even explain — it’s something that I'll always carry forward with me. It's a lot of pride. There's so much that went into preparing for those Games and preparing for that race. To be able to sing the national anthem on the top of the podium was extremely special," he says.

Though it wasn't until later on that evening — when Makowsky actually got to see his brother and dad and other family and friends who were there — that it all really hit home, he says. So much hard work went into producing that golden moment. In many ways, he’ll experience part of that again on June 9, when his academic achievement is recognized in two, very difficult undergraduate subjects: chemical engineering and economics.

It takes a team to raise a graduate

“It was a lot of dedication,” admits Makowsky. “It took a lot of organization and a lot of communication with my coaches and my professors, with a lot of my friends that I've made along the way in my classes. Without them as well, just being able to send me notes and being willing to work with me while I was away and while I was back. It really was a group effort.

“At times I'll actually think back and won't be able to think about how I was able to go through some of those years,” he says. “You just get so entrenched in the pursuit that you just do whatever is necessary to get it done.”

Makowsky says he chose to do a double major — not because he’s a glutton for punishment — but because so much of what an engineer is able to accomplish is based on economics.

So what will go through Lucas Makowsky’s head when his name is called on June 9? Relief? Disbelief? Perhaps satisfaction?

“I couldn't even tell you right now... I'm definitely looking forward to crossing the stage and receiving my handshake and the papers to make it official that I made it through this entire process and successfully completed my two degrees. I started in the fall of 2005, so it’s been almost nine years and I enjoyed every bit of the way. I can move forward with without any regrets up to this point in my life.”