© Phil Matusiewicz
Gymnast Scott Chandler, left, receives the first-ever inspiration award from Sport P.E.I. board member Paul Jenkins at the recent Sport P.E.I. awards banquet in Charlottetown. Chandler was recognized following his recent retirement from the sport at the age of 40, making him Canada's oldest ever top-level competitive gymnast.
Gymnast's career spanned more than two decades
"(It was) a train wreck. I fell six times, and I got up six times. I used every second of the 30 seconds allowed between falls. Everything I had, I left there," said Chandler. "Persevering and never giving up when all you have left is your love of the sport, that's what it's all about."
That's why Chandler, now 40 and a year past competing in his 20th nationals, wonSport P.E.I.'sinaugural inspiration award.
"First of all, it's flattering and honouring. It's proof it's not always about firsts and gold medals. It's honouring the feats of the athlete," said Chandler, who lives in Emerald with his wife, fiddler and veterinarian Courtney Hogan.
Chandler finished 25th out of 42 in the senior men's all around competition at the 2015 nationals. He earned 64.3 points, finishing between 23rd (rings) and 30th (parallel bars) in his six events.
It confirmed his (and his body's) decision to retire from competitive gymnastics after the meet.
And with good reason, at least from his body's perspective. During his career, he's blown out an Achilles tendon, shredded both shoulders and bled from the eyes, just to name a few ailments, but still he trained for the next event, the next meet, usually three times a day.
Last year the routine ended.
"(At the nationals) my heart stopped believing (I can compete) and for the first time I felt hollow."
Chandler's feats aren't unrecognized, however; he's not the unknown gymnast.
The North Winsloe native started in the sport as an eight-year-old, eventually becoming the first Islander to earn a national gymnastics medal when he won a silver in the floor competition in 1987.
He won gold two years later in the vault and added a handful more medals. At his peak, he was ranked third overall in the country.
Chandler made the national team when he was 13 and remained there until he was 18. At the time he was a contender for the 1996 Olympics when he decided to give it up after 10 years in the sport.
A decade later, Chandler, now working full-time with the Paderno cookware company, returned to the competitive game and finished third at the nationals in the open division.
He moved up to the senior level and during the next 12 years became the oldest man ever to compete at the nationals and earned his best seniors finish, a ninth overall, in 2010.
Earlier this year, he was made an honourary member of Team Canada and he organized an event in his old training digs at the Island Gymnastics Academy to hit the equipment one more time and to mark his 40th birthday. Olympian gymnast and Halifax native Ellie Black was one of the athletes who competed with Chandler.
So the award seems a fitting sendoff after two-plus decades in the sport, and while he said coaching isn't for him, Chandler is still working with young competitive male and female gymnasts to improve their strength and confidence.
And living a regular life.
"Family and working full-time takes a lot of your time," he said.
By the numbers
20 Times at the national championships.
16 National and international medals.
7 Years on Canada's national team
4 Sport P.E.I. awards.
1 Canada Games Roland Michener award.
1 Sport P.E.I. inspiration award.