Induction into a sport’s hall of fame is the ultimate and crowning achievement for most athletes.
It’s no different for Jamaican-born Canadian, Molly Killingbeck, who captured three gold medals, eight silver medals and one bronze medal – the majority in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays – at major international athletics meetings during a distinguished career.
Already in the York University and Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame, the four-time national champion will join former Canadian 200-metre record holder, Atlee Mahorn; ex-national coach, Andy Higgins; three-time Olympian, Kevin Sullivan and Masters record holder, Danny Daniels, in Athletics Canada Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honour and privilege,” said Killingbeck. “I was very fortunate to have been given some opportunities to do the many things I have on and off the playing field. I am grateful for all of that and this is a bonus and an end product I never expected.”
The two-time Olympian is going into the Hall of Fame with some familiar company.
Killingbeck and Mahorn were teammates on several occasions, including the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and Higgins coached many teams that she were a part of. As the University of Windsor coach for nearly six years, she coached against Higgins, who established the University of Toronto track club in 1971 and was the head coach for 24 years. They also worked together at the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario, where Killingbeck was the athletic services manager and Higgins was responsible for coaching education.
The induction ceremony takes place on July 24 in Toronto as part of Athletics Canada Pan Am-themed alumni gala that will also honour last year’s award winners.
The celebration will be extra special for Killingbeck, who is a member of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games administrative team.
She’s the sports manager for shooting, which takes place at the Toronto International Trap & Skeet Club in Innisfil; mountain biking, which will be held at the Hardwood Mountain Bike Park in Oro-Medonte and canoe/kayak slalom, which makes its Pan Am debut this summer at the Minden Wild Water Preserve.
The sports managers are responsible for strategizing, planning and executing the requirements for the key areas of sport competition, operations, services, presentation and Parapan planning and integration.
“About 15 months ago, I knew little of canoe/kayak slalom other than what I saw on TV from time to time,” she said. “In the capacity of sports manager, you have to know all aspects of the sports and be able to create a budget, assist with the recruiting of volunteers, set up the field of play, meet with technical delegates and basically run a competition effectively from start to finish.”
At the end of the three competitions, Killingbeck – who has a Level IV sprints/relay national coaching certification – will assist track and field sports manager, Nicole Clarke.
While some downplay the significance of the Pan Am Games, Killingbeck enjoyed her experiences at the 1983 and 1987 quadrennial multi-sport events in Caracas and Indianapolis, respectively, where she won silver medals in the 4×400-metre relays.
“You have to learn to compete at the Pan Am and Commonwealth Games,” she said. “If you never learn to compete, win and have success at smaller competitions, then I don’t think you are fully prepared to compete at major events. It’s not something you can fast track. I think the Pan Am Games could be just as competitive as the World Championships or the Olympics because you are running according to the level of people that you are competing against. When that gun goes off, I don’t think at the back of an athlete’s mind is the thought that they will not run fast because they are up against Pan Am athletes. As an athlete, you are always looking for opportunities to hone your skills and achieve personal bests.
“You always refine what you are doing so that you are closer to accomplishing your goals and becoming better. On the continuum of every athlete’s development, the Pan Am Games and other multi-sports events should be on their radar. Sometimes athletes don’t compete in them because it’s probably too close to a major meet. It also depends on the event and I think you can get away with it in the sprints. One year, I competed in the World Championships, Pam Am Games and the World University Games. If you set clear goals and have a coach who knows what they are doing, I think you can always add the Pan Am Games to your annual plan and be successful. The Games teach you how to get podium success without pressure.”
The three-time Commonwealth Games medallist was a member of Canada’s 4×400-metre relay team that won a silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Attempting to repeat their success four years later at the Seoul Games and in the aftermath of the Ben Johnson doping scandal, Killingbeck – the second leg runner after Charmaine Crooks led off – dropped the baton. The other team members were Marita Payne-Wiggins, the mother of 2014 National Basketball Association (NBA) number one selection Andrew Wiggins, who is with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Jillian Richardson.
Not finishing the race remains a low point in Killingbeck’s sparkling athletics career. However, she has not allowed that dark moment to define her.
“If you choose to learn from something like that, then you can grow,” she said. “Had I not dropped the baton in Seoul, I probably would never have taken up a coaching career. Who knows?”
Migrating from Jamaica at age 13, Killingbeck – who took up the sport partly to make new friends in her new environment – graduated from York University, where she was a two-time Athlete of the Year.
“After finishing high school, I worked for a year and could have gone to an American university,” she said. “But I received a $1,000 provincial grant which took care of my tuition and books. I thought I had a pretty sweet deal in addition to having access to the Toronto Track and Field centre at York, which opened in 1979 and was a world-class training facility and good training partners.”
In addition to coaching at the University of Windsor and York University and working at the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario, Killingbeck was an Adidas Eyewear coach/athlete, a Canadian Olympic Committee event planner/organizer and Athletics Canada national relays and sprint program coach.