© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated WinterFlash2

Vancouver’s Chris Winter recently announced his retirement from the sport of athletics.

He was one of Canada’s top steeplechase and cross-country runners for well over a decade. So the question is, what does a retired 30-year-old take up next?

Firstly, Winter’s retirement comes after two other surprise retirements in marathon runner Rob Watson and last year Kelly Wiebe, still in his early 20’s, called it quits.

Asked if there is a pattern developing here, Winter said, “I don’t think so. I think there is always a natural ebb and flow with athletes moving in and out of the sport. Guys like Watson, Wiebe, and myself have been in the sport a long time, and while we all could continue to train and compete at the elite level for many years more, there comes a time in every athlete’s life to move on. I think distance running is in good hands with lots of great young talent like Mo Ahmed, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Justyn Knight (among many others)”.

Nine-year-old Winter in his first track race. Photo credit: Chris Winter.

Winter was a perennial top-ten finisher in the National Cross Country Championships. He won the 2014 edition that took place on Jericho Beach in Vancouver.

In the 2015 event that took place in Kingston, Ontario, he placed eighth, however, finished just seconds behind one of the strongest fields in Canadian cross country running history, which included Reid Coolsaet, Alex Genest, Philibert-Thiboutot, Luc Bruchet and Ross Proudfoot who won in the time of 30:06.90. Winter crossed the line in 30:18.2.

He finished second to Bruchet in 2013 and during the 2012 event he was beaten only by Canadian 10,000-metre record holder Cameron Levins, 5,000-metre record holder Mo Ahmed and Wiebe.

Winter competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the 3,000msc. He competed in six IAAF world championships in track and cross-country, as a junior and as a senior athlete.

His personal best is 8:26.55, which he ran in London, England in 2015.

Asked why he decided to retire now, with the 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships less than a year away he said,I made the decision to retire now because for me it was always about the Olympics. I had dreamed of competing for Canada at the Olympics since I was nine years old and having now done that I can retire knowing I have achieved everything I had always wanted. I like the line that “It’s always best to leave the party while you are still having fun”. I’m leaving my competitive career on my own terms, healthy, and still in love with a sport that has given me so much. I also think that at 30 years old I am in a great position to switch focusses and put the same passion and drive that I put into my training into the next chapter of my life.”

Winter has been involved with the sport including coaching St. George’s School teams in Vancouver. Last year he married Rachel Cliff, who is also an elite athlete. She ran fast enough to qualify for the Rio Olympics, however, was left off the team. Cliff also happens to be very competitive in cross-country.

World Youth Track and Field Championships – 3,000m podium finish, 2003. Photo credit: Chris Winter

Asked about his plans for plans after representing Canada for nearly half of his life he said, “I don’t have anything to announce just yet, but I do plan to stay very involved in the sport. After 20 years in athletics, I feel that I’ve learned a lot, and as a result, I feel that I have a lot to give back. I’m excited to take on new adventures and challenges and to hopefully get the opportunity to help the next generation of athletes reach their dreams in one way or another.”