Nikkita Holder en route to her victory in Toronto (Claus Andersen (organisers) for the IAAF) © Copyright
General News 12 July 2012 – Toronto, Canada

Women’s hurdles steals the show in Toronto

Toronto, CanadaThere was no doubt as to which event was the feature attraction at Toronto’s National Track League Finale Wednesday night (11).

The women’s 100m Hurdles featured five of six Canadians who have achieved the Olympic 'A’ standard this season. Only national champion Jessica Zelinka was absent as the near capacity crowd, which included such celebrities as Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, and 1996 Olympic sprint relay gold medalist Bruny Surin, looked forward to the race.

Many had come to see how 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (4th in 12.95) and 2003 World champion Perdita Felicien (5th 12.97) would rebound after both had failed to make the Canadian Olympic team. The result was surprising.

It was Olympics bound Nikkita Holder who emerged the victor in a time of 12.83 a shade slower than her personal best of 12.80 which had secured her Olympic place at the national championships two weeks ago.

Veteran Angela Whyte a finalist in the 2004 Olympics claimed second place in 12.90 while Phylicia George, who joins Holder and Zelinka in the Olympic team, finished just one one-thousandth of a second ahead of Lopes-Schliep (12.943 to 12.944). Felicien struggled to finish in 5th place in 12.97.

"I was just trying to do my best and I did it," said the 25-year-old Holder who trains with both George and Lopes-Schliep. "[My goal in London] is to get on the podium, of course. I just want to improve my time and keep going at it."

As she held court with national media trackside at the beautiful University of Toronto Varsity Stadium she was congratulated by her fiance Justin Warner, the Canadian 100m champion who had earlier equalled his personal best time of 10.15 (wind +0.7). The couple will both represent Canada at the London games.

"It feels great and it will be a good experience," Holder continued, "and I am glad I get to share it with him."

Lopes-Schliep was extremely gracious in defeat. With a smile on her face she revealed what she has been telling her younger, less experienced teammates in training.

"I tell them good luck, kick some butt and you have got to be training hard because everyone is out there for the top three spots so you have to keep training and have fun," she said. "God has a different plan for me. I don’t know what it is. But it’s got to be something big."

"We had a little bit of a delay today and I was warmed up and ready to go at the time we were supposed to go but that’s how it goes sometimes. I felt really good so we will see what the rest of the season has in store. I am hoping to go better than 12.64. I ran that my second meet out. So we will see."

Warner’s triumph came at the expense of several members of Canada’s men’s sprint relay squad. Seyi Smith was 2nd in 10.27 with Gavin Smellie 3rd in 10.35.

"I wasn’t too pleased with my race," Warner admitted. "I didn’t have a good start at all. I just kind of powered through so if I can combine my best start with that finish I know I can dip under 10.1 and potentially under 10 seconds. That’s my last 100 before London."

There were no surprises in the men’s Shot Put as Olympics bound Justin Rodhe won the event with a heave of 20.51m. Earlier this summer the America born athlete - who only received permission to represent Canada a few months ago - reached a personal best of 21.11m. Following a particularly heavy training period he was delighted with his performance in Toronto.

"I am really pleased with tonight, because where I am with my training now its well above what I expected in my results," said the 27-year-old.

"I just wanted to get one more competition in before I start my training camp and it breaks up my travel a little bit. Trying to get to Europe it’s better for me."

Rodhe moved to the remote town of Kamloops, British Columbia to train with Dylan Armstrong and coach Dr. Anotoliy Bondarchuk.

"The group is everything," he declared. "I moved there four years ago to be with the group and I am reaping the benefits now of being in the atmosphere of Dr. Bondarchuk and Dylan Armstrong."

Canada’s two Olympic representatives in the women’s 800m race - Melissa Bishop and Jessica Smith - did battle with a large field of 13 runners which did not run in lanes but in a confusing waterfall start instead. Bishop took the lead coming off the bend to win the race in 2:01.68 with Smith fighting her way through the field to snatch second place. Third place went to Lemlem Bereket Ogbasilassie in 2:02.25.

"I am pleased with my race," said Bishop. "We have had a few hard days of training so it was good to get out and have fun and race. I think it was good prep for London. I understand there won’t be that many girls on the line in London but it could be pushy and tactical so it’s good practice.

"I have a race in Dublin before the Olympics. I think I have more left and I’m really excited for the next two months to see what they have to bring. I am, hopefully, capable of doing 1:57 - 1:58. I believe I am. I just have to go out and see if I am."

Two-time Olympian Nate Brannen easily won the men’s 1500m with a time of 3:38.68 after training partner Geoff Harris towed him through the first kilometre. He was never pressed as his margin of victory amply demonstrates.

Second place went to Peter Corrigan in 3:40.14 with Geoff Martinson, a member of Canada’s 2011 world championship team, third in 3:40.20. Despite finishing fourth Taylor Milne, a 2008 Canadian Olympian won the overall points race for this event and the $4000 first place prize.

"The idea was to come here and get a good one in, get to the front and get used to leading," said Brannen who ran a personal best of 3:34.22 in Hengelo. "Just get a race in, get the legs spinning again.

"I am ready to run fast. I can run 3:32 at least right now. I need the opportunity."

Paul Gains for the IAAF