When Langley runner Michael Savage settled in at the starting line during the 2014 BC Summer Games, he had just three months of formal training behind his belt.
The 20-year-old, surrounded by athletes with years more practice on the track, didn’t even use a starting block like many other competitors.
It would be hard to tell looking at the final results from the July 17 to 20 Special Olympics division at the Games in Nanaimo. Michael, who is autistic, took home five gold medals, earning a spot on top of the podium in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay events. In one race he beat his nearest opponent by a full three seconds, Michael’s dad Mike told The Times.
The “dominant” performance came as no surprise to his parents.
“He’s been running for years, anytime he gets frustrated,” said Mike, explaining that Michael would escape to the family’s two acre yard when he had problems communicating, always coming back feeling better with barely a bead of sweat on his forehead.
“He would run what seemed like miles, like Forrest Gump.”
Michael’s younger brother Alexander has a passion for track and field too, and after taking gold in midget (16 and under) long jump last year at the Legion Canadian track and field championships, Michael wanted to earn some medals of his own.
But that’s not the only thing that motivates him, according to Michael himself.
“Always be humble, and be super fun and believe in yourself,” he said while practicing his best impression of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s famous Olympic win pose.
Michael said he’d like to keep running competitively, and enjoys making new friends at events.
“The scary part about it is that he’s raw,” said his dad. “If he has professional coaches this boy is going to be setting records.”
Mike said his son doesn’t worry about his competition, and although Michael may be “all business when the gun goes off,” there are always plenty of smiles, hugs and congratulations for his competitors post-race.
“Michael doesn’t like to lose, just like the rest of us,” he said, adding that he was impressed with how easily coachable his son was once he kicked off official training for the Summer Games at Bear Creek Park three months ago.
Aside from the track Michael loves cartoons. He brings that fun attitude to his training, imagining himself as his running alter-ego, the “Super Sonic Roadrunner,” said Mike.
Mike is confident his son has the talent and drive to allow him to work towards representing Canada in national and international Special Olympic competitions. There is no question about Michael being able to handle the pressure, he added.
“If there’s a task at hand, that’s all he’ll think about.”