Former Olympian Skates On

Who:Chantal Cermak, 40
Where:Bemidji, Minn.
DX:Metabolic myopathy, diagnosed at age 39
What:
Chantal Cermak
Chantal Cermak with her family.
 

Cermak was the 1992-93 all-around U.S. women’s speed skating champion and 1994 national champion in the 3,000-meter race. Cermak competed at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She retired from the sport in 1998 and turned her attention to her three children, now ages 4 through 10.

During her Olympic training in 1993, Cermak noticed muscle weakness in her hands and back, but she chalked it up to a rigorous training regimen. The muscle weakness worsened, especially during her third pregnancy.

How:

After her third child was born in 2001, Cermak sought help and was told she had ALS, then multiple sclerosis (MS). In July 2005, a neurologist at the MDA clinic at Fairview University Med-ical Center in Minneapolis finally ruled out ALS and delivered a diagnosis of a metabolic myopathy. Cermak is taking medication to help with the muscle weakness.

On Her Return to the Ice:
Chantal Cermak speed skating in the 1994 Olympics
Chantal Cermak skating in the 1994 Olympics.
 

This winter, Cermak started a local club for skaters of all ages called Pioneer Speed Skating. She coaches one day a week, though her legs often get severe muscle cramps while she’s demonstrating.

“I’ve been skating since I was 10, and to be away from the ice made me feel lost. I feel alive again now that I’m back on the ice coaching. I like helping other kids find the same joy in the sport that I grew up absolutely loving.”

 


On Facing Challenges:

“In sports, my motto was ‘I can do this.’ Now, when I feel like giving up, I always come back around to that saying. It may take more time to achieve it, but I try to do everything to the best of my ability. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, so I have to take it one day at a time.”