Not too long ago, Canada was stacked with world-class athletes who threatened to medal at global championships in the 100-metre hurdles event. One of those athletes is Angela Whyte, who finished fifth in the heptathlon at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games just two weeks ago.
Whyte’s major international championship debut was back in 2001 in her hometown of Edmonton during the IAAF World Track and Field Championships. So far, her international career has spanned 17 years.
Hurdlers who entered the scene around the same time included Pickering, ON native Perdita Felicien, arguably the best in the world for a year or so; she retired in 2013. Felicien still holds the national record of 12.46 and has run 12.45 wind-aided (+2.1ms). Scarborough’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep competed neck and neck with Felicien during their prodigious heyday. Lopes-Schliep ran as fast as 12.49 and is also retired.
They both medalled at IAAF World Track and Field Championships. While Lopes-Schliep’s personal best is a tad slower than Felicien’s, she did earn a bronze medal during the Beijing Olympics. They were exciting times on the Canadian sprint landscape.
Jessica Zelinka of London, ON, was a heptathlete who won medals at the Commonwealth and Pan Am Games and came close during the world championships and Olympics. She added the stand-alone hurdles race to her events and finished seventh in the 2012 London Olympics and fifth in the heptathlon – a Canadian record at the time. She ran the hurdles as fast as 12.65.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Humboldt, Sask would go on to medal for Canada at international competitions and set national records in points earned. She ran the 100-metre hurdles as fast as 12.93.
Currently, Canada’s fastest hurdler is Toronto’s Phylicia George, who quietly moved up in the event to take over the spotlight. She has also run as fast as 12.65. She made her debut as a bobsledder at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics earning a bronze medal. George made her summer Olympic debut back in London 2012.
Whyte has bridged the eras of Felicien, Lopes-Schliep, Zelinka, Theisen-Eaton and George.
She owns a best of 12.63, finished sixth in the 2004 Athens Olympics, competed in five different Commonwealth Games, earning two silver and one bronze medal and is a three-time national champion in the hurdles event and a national champ in the long jump, indoors.
For 2018, she competed in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games heptathlon just one month shy of her 38th birthday, proving that she can still compete at a very high level as she finished two positions out of the medals.
Whyte suggested that she would still like to improve her 800-metre performance, an event that is slightly more aerobic than anaerobic – a realm not too familiar to sprinters, jumpers and throwers.
“A 2:10 would be amazing,” she said and then with tongue-firmly-in-cheek added. “I can’t run too fast though otherwise, I might find myself a new event I don’t necessarily want to compete in.”
Asked if the sprinter needed to sit in the pack to 600-metres, then unleash her sprint talent, she said, “I’m a take it out as best I can and hold on for dear life, type. [But seriously] for the 800m, I was told the plan and executed it well, which I think sets me up to hopefully be knocking on the door to a new 800m PB soon.”
Whyte was just okay with her performance at the Commonwealth Games, “I went in a little banged up, struggling with a low back and hamstring issue. My coach planned my training before the games very well, so I’d be able to make it through as best as I could.”
“Day 1 was a mixed bag, with a solid hurdle race to start and a PB in my weak event, the high jump, I then under-performed during the evening sessions in both the shotput and 200m competitions. I was really disappointed and down on myself. But, after debriefing a bit after Day 1 with my coach, I was able to come back and have a pretty good Day 2 with a solid long jump and a PB in the javelin.”
“I really enjoyed my experience. It was a nice change from doing just the hurdles. I loved being out there with the other athletes. The crowd in the stadium was phenomenal through every event. I hope I get to experience that again.”
Asked if she will go after a spot on Team Canada for the 2020 Olympics she said, “I believe I will be 40 at the 2020 Olympic Games (they’ll be at the end of July). My goal is to make the best attempt possible to make that team. I know there is a lot of amazing up-and-coming athletes, so it will be tough, by why not give it a go?”
Asked what event she will focus on for the spring and summer of 2018, Whyte said, “I will probably focus more on the hurdles for a bit but with the intention of doing another heptathlon at some point.”