For Michael Christensen, training for WorldSkills was like training for a marathon.
The computer-aided design wunderkind spent more than a year training for the international competition, starting out slow with just a few hours a week, and gradually building up to a dedicated 8-10 hours a day.
He practiced modeling different objects, tested himself in speed and endurance, and participated in several specialized skill training sessions and projects. He started up a new company, 5.0 Design Co., to fine tune his skills in a range of areas. And as the competition grew nearer, he packed his bags and moved to Langley where he could put all efforts into training with no distractions. He left behind family, friends, girlfriend.
“My preparation period was very intense,” the 20-year-old told The Progress in an email interview. The competition, “was definitely more intense than anything else I have ever competed in.”
His hard work paid off.
In the category of mechanical engineering design, Christensen placed 7th at the WorldSkills competition held from Oct. 5-8 in London, UK. He is the top placed Canadian ever to compete and was awarded a medallion for excellence.
But like all ace competitors, Christensen was initially disappointed with the placing. He’s used to coming in first.
“I felt very disappointed to have worked so hard, but to not actually win the event,” he said. “I gave it everything I had, competed better than I ever have in the past, and worked to a level I never knew I could achieve. I know there is nothing else I could have done. I was as prepared as I was ever going to be and I gave it my all.
“In the end, it just came down to the fact that everyone who competed was fantastic. And the margin of separation was very slim as far as marking went, only by a few per cent along the top 10,” he said.
The competition had 1,000 young competitors from 51 countries competing in 46 different skills. In Christensen’s category, he was up against 20 other competitors, and was just 30 points off from gold, 12 from bronze.
Competitors from Brazil, Singapore and Switzerland took gold, silver and bronze respectively.
“I achieved 7th … which is the best any Canadian has placed in this category,” said Christensen. “I feel very proud knowing that and I am confident that I was able to do my country proud.”
Over four days, Christensen and his fellow competitors were given four projects to complete in a specified time frame.
They had to model missing parts for a remote-controlled car; design and model welded frames for an automotive assembly plant; and design a worm gear system to drive a metering pump, which had an interfering component that they had to identify and redesign. They had to create assembly drawings, rendered images, three-dimensional flyover animations, and more.
“The challenges were very difficult, much harder than any I’ve ever encountered during a competition,” said Christensen. “Some of the projects were even designed so that we could not finish all of the tasks and actually had to choose our priorities.”
With more than 2,000 spectators watching, some might have caved in to their nerves. But not Christensen. After eight competitions regionally, provincially, nationally, he was well versed in calming the butterflies. And if at any time, he felt overwhelmed, he knew he had support near and far.
“I had many people cheering me on; my friends and family back home, my girlfriend and her family, and various companies I worked with who helped me through my training period,” he said. “My mom, dad, brother and sister even flew out to cheer me on during my final competition days.
“It was fantastic knowing I had so many people rooting for me all over the world. I know I couldn’t have done it without him.”
For many people coming off a marathon experience, they’re not too quick to commit to another. But Christensen, he’d do it in a heartbeat.
“Of course I would do it again,” he said. “It is a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone.”