Robert Oleksiuk, a 43-year-old Fernie resident, is heading to Turkey to play at the upcoming International Tennis Federation Masters Tour World Championships.
Originally from Vancouver, Oleksiuk grew up playing tennis as both his parents played recreationally.
“As long as I can remember I remember being at the tennis court,” he said.
Through his youth, Oleksiuk enjoyed success at the junior level but eventually grew away from the sport.
He described his departure from tennis as “similar to when people quit hockey.”
“Eventually, other things become more important,” he said. “You go to school, get a job, follow girls around.”
Oleksiuk did not play tennis much throughout his 20s, but moving to Fernie 10 years ago rekindled his connection with the sport.
“Fernie has a very vibrant recreational tennis scene,” he said. “Seeing the culture here got me back into it.”
Initially, Oleksiuk only played once a week recreationally. He soon realized though that he was still quite good at the sport — especially relative to others his age.
Oleksiuk went from playing recreationally to registering in some tournaments, particularly in Alberta. His competitive tennis run has taken him across Canada and Europe including a tournament win in Sweden where he met his wife, Lisa.
The ITF Masters Tour splits competitors into age groups. Oleksiuk will be competing against other men between the ages of 40 and 44. Every country sends a team of four players in each age group. All four players in Oleksiuk’s age group are from B.C.
According to Oleksiuk, there are 18 other countries who will be sending teams to the tournament in his age group.
In order for a player to qualify for the team, they must compete in at least two qualifying tournaments (as determined by Tennis Canada). Then, based on those scores, Tennis Canada invites players to join the team.
Oleksiuk said making the national team is his highest tennis achievement.
“Being one of the top four players in the country in my age group is definitely my peak so far,” he said.
To prepare for the tournament, Oleksiuk has been travelling to Calgary and Vancouver to play in tournaments at a competitive level. He has spent some of his early days in March with the national team training in Vancouver.
Heading to Turkey, Oleksiuk says he is keeping his expectations low but he is excited for the new level of competition.
“It’s very exciting to go play against those who went the professional route from tennis powerhouses like France and Switzerland,” he said. “To maybe win a match or two would be incredible.”