By RON FANFAIR
There was Ali-Frazier in boxing and McEnroe-Borg in tennis and then there is England versus Australia for cricket’s Ashes and Oxford-Cambridge in boat racing.
You can now add Perdita-Priscilla or “P and P” to the list of hyped sports rivalries.
Canadian world-ranked 100-metre hurdlers Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep were the feature attraction at last weekend’s Canadian Track and Field championships at Varsity stadium and they did not disappoint.
Felicien, who turns 30 on August 29, captured her ninth national crown and 18th win in 32 head-to-head battles against her arch rival, breasting the tape in a stadium record 12.72 secs. in the championships’ highly anticipated race.
“It’s wonderful to be a Canadian athlete and to be running in front of your family, your fans and your friends,” said the Ajax resident whose personal best outdoors is 12.46 secs. registered six years ago in Oregon. “I take a lot of pride running at home because I don’t get many opportunities.”
Felicien changed coaches earlier this year after her longtime Illinois-based track trainer Chris Winckler retired. They were associated for 10 years. She moved to Atlanta in March to be with Loren Seagrave and Rana Reider.
“I think Loren (he trained Canadian sprinters Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey) is going to help me with my speed,” said Felicien, the fourth-ranked women’s hurdler this year with a season-best 12.58 secs. in last month’s Diamond League event in New York and silver medalist in the 60-metres hurdles at the world indoor championships in Doha four months ago.
The 2003 and 2004 world outdoor and indoor champion said her goal is to win a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. She failed to clear the first hurdle in the 2004 Greece Olympics and missed the 2008 Beijing Games because of injury.
‘That’s the only medal that’s not in my cabinet and that’s what has been eluding me,” she said. “It’s my goal to get one to cover off my career.”
Lopes-Schliep’s coach Anthony McLeary said he and his athlete are not terribly upset by the 0 .03 secs. loss to Felicien.
“Priscilla came out fast, but she clipped the fourth hurdle and lost momentum,” said the current Athletics Canada Coach of the Year. “These are two evenly matched competitors and there is absolutely no room for error.”
Calgary-based 21-year-old sprinter Sam Effah, who posted Canada’s fourth fastest time – 10.06 secs. – in Miramar, Florida last month, recovered from a sluggish semi-final to win the men’s 100-metre dash in 10.21 secs. while Orillia-based Toyin Olupona, 27, defended her national title in 11.46 secs to regain the stadium record she relinquished hours earlier to Krysha Bayley who finished second in the final in 11.55 secs.
“I am so happy,” said the elated five-time national champion who switched coaches three weeks before the championships. “I have not run this fast since 2008.”
Karl Jennings of York University successfully defended his 110-metre hurdles title, clearing the 42-metre obstacles in a stadium record 13.72 secs. while University of Miami graduate Tabia Charles, who also has a passion for fashion, won the long jump (6.43 metres) and triple jump (13.20 metres) events.
Most of the athletes were caught off guard when they arrived at the track meet to learn they could not wear running shoes with compression tier spikes (also known as Christmas Trees) which they frequently use at international meets. There was concern that the longer spikes could damage the University of Toronto track.
The regular spikes for outdoor meets are about 7 mm in length.
“It was not in the technical package which we get before a meet, so the athletes were all surprised,” McLeary said. “We ran on the same track last year and the athletes used the Christmas Tree, so I don’t know why it would have been a problem this year.”
The 2011 and 2012 national championships will take place in Calgary.