Canada’s 2012 Olympic track and field team will feature a potential medalist in the shot put, a world-class heptathlete and some interesting sibling acts. But nowhere on the list will you find a pair of former Olympians, including Canada’s only track medalist from four years ago in Beijing.
Athletics Canada used the Olympic trials at Calgary’s Foothills Athletic Park to name its London-bound team Sunday and stunningly absent were female hurdlers Perdita Felicien and 2008 Olympic bronze medal winner Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
Although Felicien and Lopes-Schliep had achieved the Olympic qualifying time, neither ended up finishing in the top three of Saturday’s anticipated event. It was a 100-metre hurdles final that saw Felicien false-start and run under protest before Lopes-Schliep hit a hurdle, veered into another lane and crossed the finish line in sixth place, well back of the winner, heptathlete Jessica Zelinka, who wasn’t expected to beat her celebrated peers.
After a protest and appeal from Felicien were eventually turned down, Athletics Canada named its top three women’s hurdlers for London – Zelinka, Phylicia George and Nikkita Holder. For Felicien, 31, it was likely the end of her Olympic dream.
“It’s not difficult [to accept] because I’ve had a really long career, a really successful career and I don’t define myself by Olympic medals or Olympic moments,” she said moments after being told her race protest had been denied. “I feel I deserve to be there [at the London Olympics], but who deserves what?”
Lopes-Schliep, who had made a spirited comeback this season after giving birth to her daughter, was equally philosophical about her fate.
“Unfortunately, I hit a hurdle really hard and I wasn’t able to recover from it,” she said, vowing to carry on for the 2016 Olympics. “It’s disappointing. You want to give your best. I felt really good. Unfortunately, Hurdle 7 got the better of me.”
Zelinka got the better of the field just one day after competing in the gruelling seven-event heptathlon. The plan heading into the hurdles final was for Zelinka to race then decide whether to compete in London based on her finish. Having raced so convincingly in the semi-finals and finals, Zelinka was encouraged to keep her spot.
“At some point you have to look at, ‘Did you earn it? Yes. Are you better than everybody? Yes,’ ” said Zelinka’s coach Les Gramantik. “It’s not a Salvation Army here.”
The Calgary-based Zelinka finished fifth in the heptathlon in Beijing and increased her Canadian record to 6,599 points at the trials.
Athletics Canada nominated 26 paralympians and 40 Olympic athletes for London with shot putter Dylan Armstrong poised as a podium favourite. The 31-year-old Kamloops, B.C., native won the Canadian title Saturday with a throw of 21.19 metres. He announced he was progressing nicely and knows what he has to do against the world’s best.
“I’ll have to go over 22 metres. I can definitely do that. I’ve got three weeks to go after it and do some really good throwing,” Armstrong said. “Anybody in the top eight can win it.”
Others named to the Olympic team included brothers Justyn Warner, who won the men’s 100 metres, and Ian Warner, who was second. The Markham, Ont., sprinters are likely to be part of the 4 x 100-metre relay team. Also cracking the lineup were Jim and Heather Steacy, the hammer-throwing brother and sister from Lethbridge, Alta.
Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner called this Olympic team “the largest in recent history,” adding “we can have four or five athletes challenge for the podium and another half dozen achieve a top-eight or finalist position.”