To mark the ascendancy of Queen Elizabeth II to the Throne six decades ago, the Royal Canadian Mint created 60,000 Diamond Jubilee Medals that were presented last year to Canadians of all ages from all walks of life.
First-time Olympian, Nikkita Holder, counts herself among those lucky to be recipients of the distinguished honour.
The 25-year-old hurdler was among a group of 25 Olympians and Paralympians who were presented with medals at a special ceremony at the Royal Ontario Museum. She said it made up for the disappointment of missing Princes William and Harry when they paid a surprise visit to the Olympic Village during the 2012 London Summer Games.
“I would have loved to meet them,” said Holder. “I am more of a fan of them because they are closer to my age. It’s however quite an honour to say that I am the recipient of this medal to celebrate the Queen’s lengthy reign.”
Holder had a lot to celebrate last year.
The University of Illinois graduate ran a personal best 12.80 secs. at the Olympic qualifier in Calgary last June, reached the Olympic semifinals and finished sixth at the World Indoor Championships 60-metre event in Turkey.
She also had the good fortune of accompanying her future husband, 100-metre sprinter Justyn Warner, to the London Olympics. They were married last October.
“It has been a crazy year, a big year and nothing but good things,” she said. “Making the Olympic team and getting to the semifinals was simply amazing. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite an honour just to get to the Olympics. To do that with the person you love makes me a very lucky and blessed person.”
Holder said she and her husband are not quite ready to be parents.
“Not right now,” she said. “We are just going to focus on track.”
The world’s 33rd ranked 100-metre hurdler is already back in training for the indoor and outdoor seasons and the 14th World Championships in Moscow next August.
“I have not decided as yet how many indoor races I am going to take part in this season,” said Holder. “Me and my coach (Anthony McCleary) are still working that out. My goal next year is to be on the podium with a gold medal hanging around my neck in Russia.”
Holder said McCleary, who two weeks ago was named Athletics Canada Coach of the Year for the second time, has had a huge impact on her career. He also trains her husband, hurdler and national 100-metre champion Phylicia George and 2011 Diamond League Winner and Beijing Olympic bronze medallist, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
“Anthony drives me crazy sometimes, but it works because he has been able to get me this far and I know he will get me to the top of my sport,” said Holder, a graduate of Dunbarton High School who spent a year at Missouri Baptist University before transferring to the University of Illinois. “He’s someone I look up to and respect.”
Minister of State with Responsibility for Sport, Bal Gosal, presented the medals to Holder and the other recipients.
“As athletes, your performances are admired by Canadians from coast to coast,” said Gosal. “You are an enormous source of pride for all Canadians and your ongoing strength and dedication make you outstanding role models for young people in this country.”
Canadian Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, Chris Overholt, said it was a great feeling to be reunited with some of the athletes who were in London.
“We had such a great time just a few months ago and some of my lasting impressions are sitting right here in front of me,” said Overholt. “Being awarded this prestigious medal in recognition of their service to Canada, Canadians and to their communities is a wonderful way of expressing our nation’s thanks to our athletes and all they do to inspire those around them.”
By RON FANFAIR