This year’s Phil Edwards Memorial Trophy co-winner, Phylicia George, and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee, after whom the award for Canada’s top track athlete is named, have a few things in common.
In addition to being Olympians, George has a passion for the medical field just like the late Guyanese-born Edwards, who studied at New York University before accepting an invitation from Canadian Olympic track and field manager, Bobby Robinson, to represent Canada at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.
The first Caribbean-born Canadian track and field athlete won a bronze medal as a member of the 4 x 400-metre relay team and went on to capture more bronze in three events – the 800, 1,500 and 4 x 400-metre events in Los Angeles four years later – and the 800-metre race in Berlin in 1936.
Edwards, the first Black gold medal winner at the 1934 British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) in London, graduated from McGill University in the 1930s and was a house surgeon at the General Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados where he established a global reputation as a tropical diseases expert.
After retiring from track where he also set 13 national records, Edwards served as Chef de Mission of the British Guiana team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and Canada’s national team physician a decade later. He was also a Canadian Army captain and, in 1936, was the first winner of the Lou Marsh trophy, presented to Canada’s top athlete.
Edwards died in 1971 at age 64 and the Phil Edwards Memorial Trophy was created the next year and presented annually for the past four decades to Canada’s outstanding track athlete.
George, who made her Olympic debut in London last summer, completed physiology and neurobiology studies at the University of Connecticut and plans to enter medical school after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The 2011 inaugural National Track League series winner and Jessica Zelinka shared the top Canadian track athlete honour this year.
“It’s been quite a fulfilling year for me and the hard work I have put in has certainly paid off,” said the brilliant 3.9 grade point average student who has an interest in oncology. “I am happy with my overall performance in 2012 and the fact that I was able to get to the Olympics where I had a great experience.”
George, 25, won the 100-metre dash and finished second in the 100-metre hurdles at the national championships in Calgary last June. Though qualifying for both events at the Olympics, she chose to participate in the hurdles, where she was sixth in a personal best 12.65 secs.
“I felt I had a good chance of medalling in the hurdles and it would have been difficult running several rounds in both events,” said George. “Right now, I don’t think I could be as competitive as I should be in the 100-metre sprint, so my focus is going to be on the hurdles where I am more comfortable.”
Ranked 12th in the world in the hurdles, George – who lost her mother to breast cancer in 2010 – has her sights set on mounting the medal podium at this year’s world outdoor championships in Russia.
“The first goal is to make the team and then getting a medal is next,” said the 2010 Big East Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award winner and the daughter of Grenadian-born parents.
By RON FANFAIR