This talented young paddler was an inspiration not only as an athlete, but also as a coach, natural leader, and friend.
The red and white Banook Canoe Club, a landmark in Dartmouth, NS since 1903, has produced many great paddlers over the years. Many got an early start in the sport, spending the long days of summer at the Club. Michael Schaus was no exception, and could be seen on the grass at Banook at a young age with his mother Anne Marie.
The youngest blond-haired Schaus soon became a recognizable face around the club. Known for his infectious smile, Mike was enrolled in kiddie canoe, and graduated to atom, peewee and then bantam. He was a favourite of his coaches, and could always be relied on for a laugh. He loved paddling, and could often be seen doing tricks in a K-1 in front of the club.
Yet those who knew him in those early days could not have predicted the success that would come his way, staring at age 15 when he graduated to the midget age class. After a growth spurt, Mike began achieving outstanding provincial, national and then international results—standings that he maintained for the rest of his kayaking career. As Michael matured as an athlete, he also transformed as an individual. Quickly developing into a great athlete and coach, Michael also began to shine as a leader at the club.
Many young paddlers soon idolized Michael. His character was unparalleled, and he began to show great promise on the race course. Mike obtained his first of many national titles in 2004 in the juvenile men’s K-1 200m. The following year he raced his way to a spot on the Canadian Junior World Championship team that competed in Szeged, Hungary. Perhaps the biggest triumph of Mike’s young paddling career came in 2008 when he led Banook Canoe Club to the Canadian club title–only the second time that it won the national championships.
Throughout the fall of 2008, Mike trained hard in anticipation of a big season. The 2009 World Championships are being hosted in Dartmouth on the very lake he grew up on, and he was determined to be able to race in front of his hometown fans. He worked hard in the gym, becoming stronger than ever. He was scheduled to attend a warm weather training camp in Florida in February. However, the day before he was to fly south, Michael passed away in his sleep. He was 21 years old.
The paddling community and beyond are left with only a store of great memories. Michael had an amazing amount of energy and he was universally liked by all those lucky enough to have known him. His legacy as a great paddler will not soon be forgotten.
His ability to touch so many different people was evidenced by the record attendance at the visitation, and then the full church that mourned during Michael’s funeral service. Tears flowed as we remembered the Michael we had come to know, telling stories with similar themes that illustrated his impressive character. There will be many tributes to the great athlete and person he had become. Notably, during the 2009 World Canoe/Kayak Championships, Michael will be honoured in front of family and peers.
Andrew Russell competes on Canada’s national canoe team. He is training in Florida and will be filing regular reports for OptiMYz.