Outrunning his dad from the young age of three years old, Craig Thomas developed a strong passion for track and field.
The Fernie local began participating in track and field in Grade 4, and since that time his enthusiasm for the sport has continued to grow.
His desire? To be one, if not the, top decathlete in the world. However before he can get to that point, Thomas hopes to compete in the Summer Universiade (FISU) games in Gwangju, Korea and the Pan American Games (Pan Am) in Toronto, Ont., both taking place in July.
Thomas is currently training six days a week, while trying to manage a full time course load at the University of Calgary and working at a local bar in order to pay his way through school.
“It does kind of get a little hard,” Thomas admits.
Growing up in an Ontario city of over 2 million, Thomas moved to Fernie before entering high school and quickly got involved in the majority of outdoors activities the small city has to offer.
“Growing up in Toronto, I was used to a very busy, everybody on the go, no time to do anything, city,” he said. “Moving to Fernie you were always outside.”
Thomas said he quickly became involved in hiking, biking, skiing, cross-country, track, basketball, volleyball and even badminton.
“My family was always outdoorsy in that sense. It was great because you go from a city of millions to a town of less than 5,000. You knew everyone growing up,” he noted, adding, “one thing I don’t regret is growing up in a small town compared to a major city in the later years of my life.”
While living in Fernie, Thomas excelled in track and field, and during high school he began training with a Canadian National Coach and high school gym teacher in the Crowsnest Pass, Alta. It was at that point Thomas discovered that he possessed the skills and ability to reach his ultimate athletic goal.
“I have always loved all events and have been fortunate enough to be able to excel at them all,” he said of his track experience, noting that he developed an aptitude for sprinting, distance running and throwing.
Over the past few years, the young athlete has continued to excel, placing third overall in the 2014 Canadian Nationals and eighth overall at the Pan American Cup.
Despite Thomas’ athletic abilities, financial constraints may easily prevent him from competing in this year’s FISU and Pan Am games.
Over the next two months, Thomas will be heading down to Tucson, Ariz. and Walnut, Calif. to take part in training camps and competitions in order to qualify for the two summer games.
“Because my event is so specific, I have to travel for it,” he said, adding that, “track and field is predominately self funding.”
With few opportunities to take part in training camps in Canada, travel expenses add up quickly for Thomas, and despite working part-time while in school, he recognizes that paying for his own travel expenses is almost impossible.
On Monday, March 9 Thomas began reaching out to the community for their support, creating a funding website (http://makeachamp.com/craigthomas) with the ultimate funding goal of just over $7,000.
“My goal is $7,500 to cover all the costs and everything needed,” said Thomas. “It’s just hard when you’re a full-time student.”
Thomas noted that with the shipment of pole-vaulting poles costing between $900 and $1,000 for a single return trip, costs tend to add up quickly.
Although Thomas will likely not be able to make it to both the Pan Am games and FISU, he hopes to be able to afford to go to one.
“I think I’m leaning towards FISU,” he admitted. “I think it’s just better international exposure.”
With years of training under his belt, Thomas said he plans to continue on with his journey and one day reach his ultimate goal of being one of the top decathletes in the world.