By Darlene Blakeley
One has dreams of a career as a naval officer, the other has dreams of Olympic gold.
Brothers Rene and Vincent De Haître represent Canada in their own unique ways, yet they also offer strong support to each other as they pursue their individual goals, even if they are a world apart.
Vincent, a world class long track speed skater, will compete in the PyeongChang Olympic Games next month in both the 1,500 and 1,000-metre races on February 13 and 23 respectively, and Rene hopes to graduate from the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in St. Jean, Que, on February 22.
Being 15 time zones apart means they won’t be able to support each other in person. Originally, the plan was for Rene to travel to South Korea to see his brother compete, but that was before he learned he would be going to St. Jean to prepare him for a career as a Naval Combat System Engineering Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.
“The thought of joining the navy has always been on the table, but the real decision came in November 2016,” Rene explains. “I have a passion for the naval world, especially shipbuilding. After a few years in the private sector, I felt as though I was in a rut just following the course without too much variation. I felt that it was the best time, being young and without too many responsibilities, to change paths and to serve in an environment that promotes cooperation and team work, as well as representing Canada and its interests at home and abroad.”
Almost three years older than Vincent, Rene plans to watch his brother’s second race live online.
“I will be wearing the Team Canada plaid shirt,” he says. “Additionally I believe a few of my platoon-mates will join me in supporting him. I will not be able to see his race on February 13 since I will be out on exercise in the field, but I will ask if it is possible to get an update from my instructors.”
In turn, Vincent, who participated in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and now holds 13 World Cup medals, is strongly supportive of his brother’s career choice.
“I’m happy my brother has found a place he can pursue naval architecture,” he says. “For as long as I can remember, my brother has always been building or planning to build things. Although we’ve taken very different paths, what we both have in common is that we weren’t meant to have a desk job.”
Vincent started skating at the age of five and never looked back. He joined the Gloucester, Ont., Concordes speed skating club and his on-ice success began when he won a silver medal in the 3,000-metre relay at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. He made his World Cup debut in 2013 and then qualified to compete for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, four years earlier than he had originally targeted. He went on to post a top 20 finish in the 1,000-metre in Sochi and was named Speed Skating Canada’s Long Track Rising Star of the Year.
Vincent says that despite their hectic schedules, he and his brother have great respect for one another’s goals and try to stay in touch when they can.
“We can go long periods of time without talking, but that is the cost of chasing your passion,” he says. “We’ve spent the last decade in different cities and provinces, but don’t let that distance fool you. We will always be there for each other.”
It is also a demanding schedule for the boys’ parents, Lucille and Denis, who try to “divide and conquer” in an effort to support both their sons. Both will be at Vincent’s first race in PyeongChang, but Denis will return to Canada in time for Rene’s graduation.
They couldn’t be prouder of both boys and their achievements.
“As they were growing up they set individual goals, which we encouraged along the way,” Lucille says. “Some goals were achieved, while others were learning experiences. To see both of them now achieving these major goals evokes a wave of emotions that culminate in tears of pride.”
She adds that as the boys were growing up they always stressed “family first” and to always be there for one another.
“We are proud that they are pursuing these qualities and to know that even if they are separated by distance, they are only a phone call away if help is needed or they just need someone to talk to.”
Whether it’s the navy or the Olympics, the brothers see their career choices as an opportunity to reach beyond themselves and make Canada proud too.
“This country has given me so much, I just want to make it proud,” says Vincent. “Our passion and work ethic is what makes us Canadian, and I can’t wait to show that on the world stage.”
Rene sees joining the navy as an opportunity to show an image of professionalism, fairness and knowledge.
“I also keep in mind that at the end of the day we are accountable to our fellow citizens,” he says. “As such when I represent Canada I want to make them proud and demonstrate the best of Canada through the navy. In short, it means that when I am representing Canada, I am proud to have the responsibility, show strength and all the best attributes that make us who we are.”
And even though they will be a world apart as they pursue their dreams in February, the brothers will always be rooting for each other.