By RON FANFAIR
Watching 110-metre hurdler Ryan Brathwaite capture Barbados’ first World Track and Field Championships gold medal in Berlin last week provided promising Toronto-based sprinter Crystal Emmanuel with inspiration going into this week’s Canada Games athletics segment in Prince Edward Island.
Born in Scarborough to Barbadian parents, Emmanuel spent nine years in the Caribbean island where she met the new world champion.
“I caught up with him on a few occasions in track and field circles,” said the 17-year-old who was a member of the Barbados Freedom Striders club. “I looked at the race live in my living room and I am happy for him. It’s nice to know that somebody who I know is on top of the world. Now I am going out to the PEI with the intention of winning gold medals. That’s my goal.”
Emmanuel will compete in the sprint events at the Canada Games where she will be attempting to improve her personal best times of 11.59 secs. in the 100-metre dash set at the Pan American Junior Championships in Trinidad & Tobago earlier this month and 24.49 secs. in the 200 set at the Canada Games qualifying competition in Windsor last month.
Ernie Halstead is confident that Emmanuel, who he has coached over the past year, will win at least one gold medal.
“She’s very coachable and she works extremely hard,” said Halstead who is the sprint coach at the York University Track Club where Emmanuel is a member. “I expect her to do very well this week.”
Emmanuel ran at the primary school level and for her church, Apple Creek Seventh Day Adventist in Markham, before moving to Barbados in 1999 with her mother Rosalind who went back to care for her ailing mom.
The young athlete attended St. Lucy Secondary School and Christ Church Foundation and honed her athletic skills on the island before returning to Toronto last year.
She failed to make the final team selected to represent Barbados at last year’s CARIFTA Games, but was back in the Caribbean this summer representing Canada at the Pan Am Junior Championships in T & T where she finished fourth in the 100-metre final. She was also a member of the national 4 x 100-metre relay team that was disqualified after one of the runners made an illegal lane change.
“It’s funny, but Barbados had the first crack at her and they did not seize it,” said Rosalind Emmanuel who is recovering from a stroke. “It’s only after Canada selected her that Barbados came calling for her service.”
Crystal said she relished her first exposure to international competition.
“It was a great experience and I felt I could have done better,” she said. “I was a bit nervous, seeing this was the first time I was taking part in such a major event.”
The Barbados O’Level Institute has offered Emmanuel a scholarship that she can accept if she clears a legal hurdle before the beginning of the new school term. She was involved in an altercation with another student at St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School.
“It was an unfortunate incident,” said Rosalind. “If she’s unable to go back to Barbados to attend the institute, she will continue at Monsignor Fraser College where she is now.”
Emmanuel aspires to represent Canada at the Olympics and mount the podium with a gold medal around her neck.