20 Questions with Mike Cheliak 20 Questions with Mike Cheliak
When you compete, there is usually someone capturing your achievement for you. Most times you don’t see them, and quite often the candid nature... 20 Questions with Mike Cheliak

When you compete, there is usually someone capturing your achievement for you. Most times you don’t see them, and quite often the candid nature of the photos taken reflect your true feelings as you were accomplishing something great. Personally, I don’t like to remember my finishes as they have grown to become a funny inside joke with people I train with, but for many others the finish line is a place that signifies the conquering moment of a fantastic challenge – moments you’d like to remember for years to come.

From the inception of 3Sports.ca, we have teamed up with MySportsShooter.com’s Mike Cheliak. A household name among Recharge With Milk Triathlon series competitors, Mike has been the event photographer for over nine years and with over 20 races on his 2013 coverage list many more athletes will become familiar with his work in the year ahead. Mike isn’t just a photographer, he’s running the mecca of Ontraio Multisport photography. We had a chance to sit down with Mike and ask him a few questions about how he came into the Multisport world and we learned some unusual things!

3Sports.ca (3S): How did you get involved with Triathlon?
Mike Cheliak (MC): My involvement in Triathlon photography started in 2003 when I met with John Salt and Jason Vurma of the MultiSport Canada Triathlon Series. I found them through researching different events that I wanted to start photographing. I had been in business for less than two years at that time and since then it has been like working with close family! Every year I look forward to the start of another amazing season with MultiSport! I am now in my 11th year with them!

3S: What is your athletic background?
MC: I was a high school and collegiate wrestler and have a background in martial arts and was a bit in the fight game in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I have also been a gym rat most of my life and continue to this day to work out – but now with a little more care and reason! I discovered yoga in 2010 and fell instantly in love! I am now a certified teacher and continue to work at completing my Baptiste Certification and Meditation teaching certificate.

3S: Have you raced before?
MC: I have raced! In 2008 I celebrated losing 60 pounds by completing the Lakeside Duathlon. Yes, it hurt! I am sure I will complete another race at some point but I would rather be behind the lens!

3S: Outside triathlons, what do you do shoot?
MC: My photography business covers triathlons, marathons, running races, cycling and also minor league team photography and fitness photos.

3S: How long have you been involved in Multisport races?
MC: As mentioned, I have been covering MultiSport races since 2003! My first ever race was the St. Catharines Running Club series in 2002.

3S: What is your favorite part of your job?
MC: The EVENT! That is the most incredible part of this work! It’s never a job to me or to those who shoot with me. The buzz, energy and nervous excitement before the race is electric and being able to cover it is a gift!

3S: What is the worst part of your job?
MC: The WEATHER! We can’t control it, we can only adapt to it! This year in Wasaga was the FIRST TIME EVER that I had to pull the plug. Our gear was getting wet and I didn’t want to risk damage. That being said; it’s amazing to watch the incredible efforts by some race crews and especially the MultiSport Canada crew headed by John and Jason. The way they manage the course, make decisions on the fly, change things up and keep the race going is nothing short of miraculous! All that and first keeping in mind the safety and security of the athlete. It’s a treat to watch.

3S: What is the highlife (thus far) of your career?
MC: The highlight of my career is likely the World Duathlon Championships in Nancy, France, this past year. An incredible cultural experience and personal growth experience that is almost too big for words! Truly a BIG life moment.

3S: What did you do prior to shooting full time?
MC: I worked as a Correctional Officer for 13 years prior to leaving with an enhanced buyout package in 2001. Prior to that I was in the food and beverage industry.

3S: What is your favorite race slated for 2013?
MC: That’s a tough one! I think the Recharge with Milk MultiSport Canada Welland Half Iron from Welland to Niagara Falls in September is going to be EPIC! I am also looking forward to the first year covering the oldest race in North America: the Around the Bay in Hamilton in March. I just get excited at pretty much all my events!

3S: If you could go anywhere for a race, where would it be and why?
MC: Australia or New Zealand! The land down under is on my bucket list and I would really love to cover something down there!

3S: How many bikes do you own?
MC: One bike! A custom built GT iDrve 1.0 mountain bike put together by Kent Parkinson. It kicks ass! If I race again… I think I know enough people that I might be able to find a ride! (haha)

3S: Funniest triathlon or running event memory?
MC: Gravenhurst 2011. It was about 35 degrees at race finish time in full sun. A 20-something guy came blazing through the finish line, stopped and proceeded to barf up everything he had. He wiped his face, laughed and said, “I guess I shouldn’t have gotten shit faced the night before my first triathlon.” I nearly peed myself!

3S: Where do you see yourself and your role in triathlons in 5 years?
MC: In 5 years time, I will still be covering triathlons and running events but will likely be picking, choosing and operating more as the hand shaker and baby kisser! There are lots of talented photographers out there and I love that I can allow them to gain experience and make some money doing what they love!

3S: Why Camouflage shorts?
MC: HAHAHAHA! Just a thing man. My Sports ‘SHOOTER.’  I really have to get off my ass and come up with a for-real uniform for my shooters that isn’t BLACK! (so I hear.)

3S: You use Nikon cameras, why?
MC: Nikon or Canon… it’s either or and I chose Nikon. I personally like Nikon glass better than Canon, but it’s all in preference.

3S: If asked by an amateur race photographer, ‘how can I take better photos’, what would you tell them?
MC: I get asked about how to take better shots all the time. My two main pieces of advice are to know your gear and know your sport. When you have that down, the rest is just experience!

3S: I’m a racer and I want the best photo possible, what should I do to almost guarantee that?
MC: Bib to front, smile or bring some emotion when you see a shooter and really ham it up (arms up, scream, jump or something) at the finish line!

3S: On a race with 300 entries, how many photos will you take?
MC: 300 entries in a running race would only be 1 shooter and maybe 1500 shots, max. With a triathlon, could be upwards of 6-10K.

3S: What is your biggest race of the year, how many photographers do you hire, and how many photos do you process?
MC: The Sporting Life 10K has 25,000 people and I use 14 photographers all the way down Young Street, right to the finish line by Old Fort York! It’s a spectacle! We took 150,000 photos last year and they were up, online, indexed and emailed out in 48 hours!

Throughout 2013, Mike will be bringing you some amazing imagery from the events he shoots including race winners and the overly-enthusiastic race supporters. As you can tell, Mike’s resume of multisport photography puts him at the very top of the list of shooters in Ontario, and we look forward to working with Mike and sharing his amazing work with you.

Thanks Mike!


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