(Image / David Walker)

The World University Games kicked off last week, and one Vancouver Island competitor is already turning heads.

University of Victoria student and Vikes athlete, David Walker, is currently in Russia representing the country in cross country skiing. But his journey to the international competition was far from a smooth and easy one.

Originally from Smithers, BC, Walker was practically born with skis on his feet. “They got me up in the mountains from day one,” Walker told UVic.

“There are photos of me all bundled up in a backpack. They used to tow me in this little toboggan behind them.”

Racing with mononucleosis

As he grew older, Walker continued to ski all throughout high school, and into his first year of post-secondary education at Okanagan College in Kelowna. After his freshman year, he was set to compete on an international stage when he was struck with a debilitating disease.

“I raced with mono for 45 days,” he said. “I got 10th at US nationals. I was the 4th or 5th Canadian, with full-blown mono.

“There were a few races that I started and got 200 metres in and would think, ‘Wow, I feel awful.’ It’s like you’re drowning. I finally went to a doctor. I had mono and a chronic sinus infection.”

After the sickness, Walker took a break from skiing and explored the idea of moving to Victoria. The idea then turned into a reality, and he made plans to transfer to UVic to pursue a mechanical engineering degree.

Wanting to try a new sport, he joined the Vikes rowing team. But then Cross Country Canada emailed him saying that he qualified for World University Games.

Fast-forward several months, and now Walker is competing in Russia, illness-free.

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For students who are concerned about balancing school and sports, Walker recommends following your dreams.

“Be patient for your success, and you’ll find it’s very rewarding. You’ll regret not trying more than you’ll regret taking an extra semester. If you need to drop a course, drop a course; if you need to miss a session, miss a session.”

“You can’t hold yourself to robotic standards. Being a student athlete is hard, and it’s wonderful. So don’t be scared. And take it easy on yourself.”

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