Just as he’s preparing to make a full-fledged launch on a new career path, Curtis Myden’s induction to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame will provide one last element of finality to his days as an athlete. Since retiring from competitive swimming in 2002 with three Olympic bronze medals to his name, the Calgary native has been working towards becoming an orthopedic surgeon. After three years of medical school at the University of Calgary plus nearly five years of residency, he’s about to cross the finish line.
“So as long as I pass my exams, knock on wood, I’ll be finished in June as far as my certification,” Myden said Tuesday after being named for induction to the hall with figure skater Elvis Stojko, bobsled brakeman David MacEachern, women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson and cycling builder Marc Lemay. “Then I’m moving on to Australia for a year to do a fellowship (at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne), and then coming back to Canada, looking to do some sports medicine and hopefully some pediatric orthopedics as a long-term goal.”
The transition from elite athlete to surgeon was a natural one for the 37-year-old, who earned a kinesiology degree in 1999 and spent lots of time as an athlete trying to gain a deeper understanding of how the body functions. After the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when he won bronze in the 400-metre individual medley at his last Games, he began volunteering at a sports medicine clinic in Calgary. Myden would take what he learned there and compare it against the practices employed by his coaches, experimenting with theories and ideas.
Going to medical school was a logical next step once he stopped racing. “I was always interested in sports science,” he said. “I feel it contributed to my performance, as I got older, you have to have some sort of spark to keep things interesting and not just swimming laps over and over again. “After the 2000 Games in Sydney, I was kind of trying to think of where I was going to go to next. I obviously enjoyed challenges throughout my sporting career, and I had always been interested in medicine. So I started exploring, started volunteering at the sports medicine clinic in Calgary, got some exposure into medicine, in particular into orthopedics, that really inspired me. It gave me a good transition as I finished competing in 2002 to then progress on to a medical career.”
Once on his new path, Myden found that many of the things that helped him succeed as an athlete — he competed at three Olympics and won 30 Canadian championships — served him well. “Having a goal, for sure, has been helpful, it’s a similar process, now from a more mental aspect, less physical,” he said. “Being able to manage time, being able to work as a team, being able to have that work ethic, to know you have to put in your time to get that reward at the end. “Those are all things that have definitely helped me.”
The competitiveness that drove Myden to success in the pool had to be rechannelled. Other residents and doctors are colleagues, not rivals. The reward of success isn’t in victory, it’s in a healthy patient. “I enjoy the challenge, there’s always a new problem to try to figure out or to try and deal with,” said Myden. “I enjoy making a difference in people’s live, whether it be through trauma or through sports injury, and I enjoy potentially in the future, the chance to work with people like myself that got injured while playing sports and trying to get them to overcome their injuries and achieve their goals.”
A spot in the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame wasn’t among those goals, but he’ll take it. “I feel very honoured and proud,” he said. “There are numerous people along the way who helped me achieve what I have achieved, but my family, they’re the ones who first got me into the pool and supported me all along the way.”
The hall’s gala dinner and induction ceremony will be held April 16, 2011 in Moncton, N.B.