Top honours for Lopes-Schliep, McCleary

By RON FANFAIR

She has been with her coach for just over a decade, sweating profusely to be the best in her athletic specialty.

So, it is fitting that hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Anthony McCleary were recognized with the Female Athlete and Coach of the Year honours at last week’s Ontario Sports Awards.

The Durham residents also shared the spotlight last November, winning Athletics Canada Athlete and Coach of the Year awards in Vancouver.

The product of Guyanese immigrants, Lopes-Schliep shook off a drug test to capture a silver medal in the 100-metre hurdles at the world outdoor championships in Berlin last August, clocking 12.54 secs. She also established a personal best 12.49 secs. at the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels a month later.

“It’s nice to be rewarded for all the hard work I have put in to get to where I am and to sit back and reap some of the benefits,” the affable athlete told Share. “Obviously, I set goals every year and I was able to achieve many of them last year. I set a personal best and I motivated myself to be the best I could be.”

Lopes-Schliep has made an excellent start to the 2010 season, clinching the 60-metre hurdles in 8.01 secs. at the Millrose meet at Madison Square Gardens in New York last January and securing a bronze medal in 7.87 secs. at the world indoor championships in Doha, Qatar last month.

She begins the outdoor season in Guadeloupe on May 1.

McCleary said he’s satisfied with his athlete’s progress this year.

“Priscilla had a very good indoor season and we are now looking forward to going outside and competing at least twice every week,” said the Jamaican-born coach and former 400-metre runner who missed representing Canada at the 1988 Seoul Olympics because of injury.

“With no major championships this year, the goal is to get her to touch down between the hurdles a bit faster and also to lower the Canadian record (Perdita Felicien holds it with 12.46 secs.). Priscilla understands what seizing the opportunity is all about because she’s an athlete who enjoys the challenge of competing when the stakes are high. She’s yet to reach her full potential.”

McCleary has overseen the development of Lopes-Schliep since 1999 when the then 16-year-old, 100-metre runner turned to him for help.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, who Track and Field News ranks third in the world, became the first Canadian woman to win a medal and the first Canadian medalist at the summer Games in 12 years when she claimed a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ontario’s Minister of Health Promotion Margarett Best presented the awards to Lopes-Schliep, McCleary and the other winners, including figure skater Patrick Chan who won the Male Athlete of the Year award.

“Each of you in your own unique way has contributed so much to the sporting landscape in Ontario,” Best told the winners. “You are examples of hard work, dedication, discipline and commitment to excellence and you are the fantastic role models who inspire us to live healthy and active lives.

“You have made our province proud and your drive, determination and commitment to developing sport are inspirational examples for all Canadians…I am honoured to stand with you and among you.”

Through the “Quest for Gold” program, the provincial government has injected $42 million in funding since 2006 to help athletes reach the highest level of international competition, giving them access to high performance training and competitive opportunities.

The Ontario government has committed $10 million to the program for 2010-11.

The Sport Alliance of Ontario and the Ministry of Health Promotion collaborate to present the Ontario Sports Awards.

“We are thrilled to be able to celebrate the achievements of our athletes, coaches and volunteers in sport,” said Sport Alliance of Ontario chair, Holly Abraham.

 

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