Fort McMurray Swim Club Head Coach Mark Chantaj has spent the past seven years bringing his influence, and worldly ambition into the community.
“When people outside of the community think of Fort McMurray, they think of oil, rightfully so. When you get here and spend time exploring what’s around it’s abundantly clear that this is, without a shadow of doubt, a family town,” Chantaj explained on residing in the city.
“We have tons of kids’ sports and art programs and two fantastic school boards preparing our children and youth in becoming impactful and impressive members of society. Fort McMurray’s children and youth are its most valuable resource, not the oil.”
Growing up in Oakville, Ontario, Chantaj had aspirations to become an Olympic Swimmer, and also teach physical education. He spent the better portion of his childhood and youth playing a variety of sports from swimming, tennis, volleyball, basketball, golf and snowboarding.
He graduated from Brock University with an honours degree in Phys-Ed before moving to Australia to study at the University of the Sunshine Coast and received a Graduate Diploma of Education.
From there, he lived in England for two years working as a high school teacher. Before coming to Fort McMurray, Chantaj worked in Banff and enjoyed the mountain life in 2013.
“My decision to move to Fort McMurray came from my brother who was living here at the time,” he explained. “I agreed to move up here but only to make enough money to backpack in South America. That was in 2013. I have yet to take my backpacking trip to South American and have been in Fort McMurray ever since.”
Chantaj credits his brother’s advice to stay in Fort McMurray, which prompted him to reach out to the Fort McMurray Swim Club.
“He encouraged me to stay and be proactive in figuring out what this town had to offer me, which ultimately led me to email the Swim Club to see if they needed any volunteers.”