Canadian hurdler eyeing 2012 Olympics

By RON FANFAIR

Any discussion about women’s sprint hurdling in Canada has to revolve around 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and two-time world champion Perdita Felicien.

They have dominated the sport locally in the past decade with Felicien winning eight of the last nine national titles while Schliep was crowned the Canadian champion in 2008 when Felicien was recovering from injury.

Scarborough-born Phylicia George, the University of Connecticut’s women track and field captain, intends to be part of that discussion. The physiology and neurobiology major, who aspires to be a medical doctor, plans to return home this summer after graduation to begin preparation for a shot at the 2012 London Olympics.

“It’s something I want to do,” the senior, who won Big East Athlete of the Week honours last month after clinching the Yale Intercollegiate 60-metre event in 8.42 secs., told Share after tying the school record (8.33 secs.) for the sprint hurdles at last Sunday’s Big East Indoor championships at the Armory in New York. “Perdita and Priscilla have both inspired me and they have put Canada on the track and field map. “I will try to be an Olympian before pursuing medical studies.”

An outstanding basketball player, George began pursuing track seriously in Grade Nine after suffering a back injury. She spent three seasons at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy High School before transferring to Mary Ward Catholic High School to complete her final year.

“They had a better track and field program,” George gave as the reason for changing schools. “I am however happy I made the switch because that was my breakout year in the sport.”

She won the 100-metre hurdles and 200-metre events at the 2006 national school championships and was selected to represent Canada a few months later at the World Junior Championships in Beijing where she failed to make it out of the first round in the 200-metre event. Her personal best in the event is 24.55 secs.

When George comes back home this summer, she will return to the Project Athletics Club at York University where head coach and mentor Wellesley Johnson is waiting to welcome her with open arms.

“Phylicia is a technically sound athlete who has built up speed over the years,” said Johnson, a retired Westview Centennial Secondary School chemistry and math teacher. “She has made the decision to give the Olympics a try and I will be there to support her along the way.”

George will not hang her head if she does not make it to the Olympics because she has always taken education very seriously.

“I visited the University of Houston and the University of Richmond, but I chose the UConn Huskies because they had what I was looking for in terms of a good education program and a coach who I felt comfortable with and I could relate to,” said George whose parents were born in Grenada. “That was very important and looking back I made the right decision.”

The Markham resident said she became interested in medicine in Grade 11 when she participated in the University of Toronto summer mentorship program designed to provide a focus for students with both an interest and aptitude for the sciences and particularly for those who otherwise would not have the mentorship opportunities available.

“I am fascinated by the human body and I relish helping people,” said George who enjoys reading and watching movies. “Being exposed to the mentorship program really helped me to make up my mind on what my career goal should be.”

George is ranked second in the Big East 60-metre hurdles and ninth in the conference in the 200-metre event.

The indoor season ends on March 13 and the outdoor season runs from March 18 to June 23.

 

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