There was high tension on the track as well as in the stands as track and field athletes competed in Calgary recently for London Olympics spots.
Among the hundreds of spectators in Alberta was Rosalind Emmanuel who could barely contain her emotions as her daughter lined up for the 200-metre final on Saturday.
“Normally, I am nervous before most races, but I was very anxious this time because I knew what was at stake,” said Emmanuel who represented Barbados in the 100-metre dash and sprint relay at the 1983 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games in Martinique. “She had really trained hard to get to this point and making it to London was her main goal.”
Crystal Emmanuel won the event in 23.27 secs. and is one of 40 national athletes nominated to represent Canada in the upcoming summer Olympics.
“I am so proud of my daughter,” said an excited mom who is not sure if she will be able to make the trip to London. “She missed the world championships last year because of a leg injury, but she was determined to come back strong and show she is Canada’s top runner over 200 metres. She’s very determined and my only advice to her is just to go out and give it her best shot.”
Born in Scarborough to Barbadian parents, Emmanuel spent nine years in the Caribbean island before returning to Canada four years ago. While in Barbados, she attended St. Lucy Secondary School and Christ Church Foundation and was a member of the Barbados Freedom Striders Club.
Former Canadian sprinter, Desai Williams, who won a bronze medal in the sprint relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and Anthony McLeary have been coaching Emmanuel for the past two years.
“Crystal is young and she has a lot of fight in her,” said McLeary who was Athletics Canada 2009 Coach of the Year. “She’s also very strong and she thinks her way through races. This young lady is only 20 so the London Games is going to be quite a learning experience for her.”
Emmanuel is in Mexico for the North, Central American & Caribbean Under-23 three-day championship that starts tomorrow. She returns to Canada this weekend to wrap up her Olympic preparations.
McLeary also coaches 100-metre hurdlers Phylicia George and Nikkita Holder and sprinter Justyn Williams who clinched Olympic places and 2010 Diamond League winner and 2008 Olympics bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep who, along with 10-time national champion Perdita Felicien, failed to qualify for London.
Felicien – a world indoor and outdoor gold medallist – suffered a false start while Lopes-Schliep – who gave birth to her first child last September 20 and was the world’s top ranked hurdler two years ago – hit the seventh hurdle and finished fifth.
“Priscilla was moving fast and her trail leg caught the back of the hurdle and pulled her to the side,” said McLeary. “She’s in good spirits even though the result was disappointing, but she will be back.”
Lopes-Schliep’s success with McLeary inspired George and Holder to seek out the Jamaican-born coach.
A University of Connecticut physiology and neurobiology studies graduate, George enjoyed her best season last year, winning the 2011 inaugural National Track League series. She captured the 100-metre event at last weekend’s national championship.
Holder, who is engaged to Warner, secured an Olympic place after Felicien’s appeal based on crowd noise at the start was denied. Ironically, Holder was among many young fans who turned out to catch a glimpse of Felicien and get a piece of memorabilia signed at an event in Pickering nine years ago to celebrate Canada’s only gold medalist at the 2003 world championships.
“Both Phylicia and Nikkita have made great strides in the past year and I am really excited for them,” said McLeary.
The track and field events at the Olympics begin on August 3.