With the start of the Pan Am Games just 13 months away, sprint hurdler Phylicia George is making some technical adjustments to improve her time and bid to medal in front of friends and family in the city where she was born and raised.
The 2013 Phil Edwards Memorial Award co-winner is attempting to decrease her steps to the first hurdle from eight to seven.
George’s trainer, two-time Canadian Coach of the Year Anthony McCleary, said the modification is not easy.
“Most hurdlers take eight steps to get to the first hurdle which is 13 metres away,” he said. “If you are a right foot starter, dominant is your right leg at the front of the blocks and that’s where most of your power is. Now, you are switching to the left leg because you have to end up at the first hurdle with the same lead leg.
“Athletes at a young age want to move either the left or right side first. That’s their dominant side and they work that for years. Now you have decided later on in life to go to the other leg to be the dominant leg and that’s not your power leg. In effect, you are putting more strength on the other side of the body, so you have to strengthen everything right across the board, including your shoulders, quadriceps, and hip flexors. It’s a complete change around.”
George, the 2011 inaugural National Track League series winner, is the first sprint hurdler that McCleary has worked with to shorten their steps to the first hurdle.
“It’s a learning process for both of us,” he said. “A lot of work is involved to get it right.”
The daughter of Grenadian-born parents, George took a break from training last week to attend an event at the Jamaican Canadian Association centre to kick off the recruitment of 2,000 volunteers from the Black community for the Pan American Games that takes place from July 10-26, 2015.
She is looking forward to competing at home.
“Having an international multi-sport event in Toronto is going to be amazing,” said George who lost her mother to breast cancer four years ago. “To actually have family and friends come out and support the athletes who live here will be great. Some of my family members were in London for the 2012 Olympics, but this is a good opportunity for extended family and friends to get an opportunity to see what we do.”
George, whose personal best is 12.65 secs., plans to better that time at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow from July 23 to August 3.
“I did just a few indoor meets this year, but my focus is on the outdoor season and I expect to take part in my first race outside in May,” she said. “My goals this year are to get to the Commonwealth Games final, stand on the podium and do a personal best.”
George, who made her Olympic debut in London last summer, completed physiology and neurobiology studies with a 3.9 grade point average and plans to enter medical school after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. She has an interest in oncology.
The 26-year-old University of Connecticut graduate 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.
Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova holds the 26-year-old 100-metre hurdles world record of 12.21 secs. while the recently retired Perdita Felicien is the national record holder with a time of 12.46 secs. set in Eugene, Oregon a decade ago.