Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Australia's Sally Pearson (C) runs on her way to winning, between Canada's Jessica Zelinka (L) and Turkey's Nevin Yanit, in the women's 100m hurdles final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 7, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)
Australia's Sally Pearson (C) runs on her way to winning, between Canada's Jessica Zelinka (L) and Turkey's Nevin Yanit, in the women's 100m hurdles final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 7, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

Phylicia George, Jessica Zelinka come up short in women’s 100-metre hurdles Add to ...

It was, without question, one of the fastest women’s 100-metre hurdles races of all time.

An Olympic record was set. A national record was, too.

Four women of the eight also had personal bests.

And when the dust settled that field was simply too fast for the two Canadians taking part.

Phylicia George and Jessica Zelinka finished at the back of the pack despite both coming in at 12.69 seconds or less, which put them roughly 0.20 seconds from the podium and well off gold -medal winner Sally Pearson of Australia’s lightning-quick 12.35.

Coming in, bronze had been a possibility for either Canadian, as both had run excellent times in the heats and semi-finals and were capable of hitting 12.60 seconds.

Problem was that, for only the second time ever at the Games, that wasn’t enough to land on the podium.

In 2008, 12.64 seconds was good enough for silver and bronze.

In 2000, 12.65 won gold.

But on Tuesday, five women ran 12.58 or better.

“Those girls are so talented,” George said. “I mean it took an Olympic record to win so obviously they ran really good races. They definitely deserved it.”

That was of little consolation to Zelinka, who is competing in her last Olympics and stormed off after only a few blunt words for Canadian reporters.

The 30-year-old from London, Ont., had been one of the feel-good stories when she qualified for the team in both heptathlon and hurdles, but after seventh-place finishes in both events, was clearly in a bad place after the experience.

“I thought it was a good race,” she said, curtly.

George was a little more satisfied, as she had set and then matched her personal best at the Games and, at 24, is looking forward to 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” George said. “It’s my first Olympics. To make the final is great. But I wanted to be on the podium.

“I knew it was going to take a personal best. A pretty big personal best, but I thought it was doable.”

The lack of that podium could leave Athletics Canada with a minor controversy on their hands given veterans Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep were left at home, although it’s hard to be too up in arms about four of the best Canadian times of the year being ran in the Olympic semi-finals and final.

Realistically, a bronze was likely all that was on the table, regardless of who was racing in red and white, as Pearson and the Americans in the finals were all putting up better times than anyone from this country since the last Games.

The good news is that both George and Nikkita Holder, who was eliminated in a semi-final, are young enough that they’ll be able to compete internationally for another four or five years, ensuring Canada remains one of the top women’s hurdles countries in the world.

Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner also believes there are more top athletes in the event on the way, as they have a coach in Anthony McCleary – a former hurdler – who has been instrumental in preparing elite understudies the past few years.

“I think we’re going to be able to sustain it for a while,” Gardiner said. “There’s some good young hurdlers in Canada.”

George, meanwhile, felt her performance, both at the Canadian trials (where she was second) and at the Games, proved she belonged on the Olympic team.

“I definitely justified my position here,” she said. “I mean I beat Perdita and even if Priscilla would have won [at nationals] I would have come third. But I know that [debate] was going on a lot so I definitely wanted to come here and show people I’m a contender and I’m just as good as those girls.”

By her times, she was, essentially matching Lopes-Schliep’s bronze medal performance in Beijing in both the semis and final.

Unfortunately the rest of the world has picked up the pace, leaving Canada a little behind and off the podium this time around.