Former Olympian Skates On

by Quest Staff on March 1, 2006 - 9:55am

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 2

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


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.


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 Medical 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.”

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