Karelle Edwards of Ottawa, Ont., will race in the women’s invitational 60-metre hurdles at the inaugural AC Indoor Open in Montreal March 14 – 16. Karelle represented Canada last summer at the Francophone Games in Nice, France. Her best time thus far this season in the 60-metre hurdles is 8.44 seconds.

AC: Injuries are an unfortunate part of our sport. Can you take us through your back issues and how you’ve been able to overcome them?

KE: I first injured my back in grade 12. However, I got treatment and within a month, I was back on the track. That summer, I won junior nationals and was a semi-finalist at the World Junior Championships. I took a month off after that to recover from my season and started university in Syracuse in the fall. Because I was set to compete at the Commonwealth Youth Games in October, I started training with my new coach right away. On my first day I did an easy warm-up on grass just to get back into the swing of things. The next morning I woke up in pain and that was pretty much it for three years. I was eventually diagnosed with a bulging disc in my lumbar spine. Although some people recover from this type of injury relatively quickly, that was not my case. I was not able to train at all for two years and was told by an orthopedic surgeon that I should find a new hobby! I was tempted to pack it in but I couldn’t go down without a fight. I worked really hard to overcome my injury and had to make some sacrifices. I had to come back to Ottawa, after two years in Syracuse, to obtain medical attention and surround myself with people who believed in me.  Most people gave up on me, however my parents and my coach at the time never doubted for a second that I’d be back on the track one day. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them.

Although I didn’t think so at the time, my injury was actually a blessing in disguise. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that obstacles can be overcome with hard work and dedication. I am a prime example of this. In my first season back, I managed to make it to final at the Olympic Trials.

AC: What are your goals and aspirations for 2014?

KE: My main focus this year is my outdoor season. I want to improve my time significantly and, of course, I have my sights set on the Commonwealth Games.

AC: The women’s sprint hurdles are historically one of Canada’s most competitive events, what have you learned from some of the competitors who came before you?

KE: I have to say that the number one thing I’ve learned from my competitors is that success doesn’t happen overnight. Every athlete faces adversity at one time or another and the one who comes up on top is the one who uses the experience to learn and grow as an athlete. The road to success requires patience, perseverance and determination. It’s a journey!

AC: What aspects of your fitness or technique are you focusing on in training this year?

KE: For the past two years, I’ve been training conservatively because of my back injury. I was testing what my back could handle. I still cant fully load my spine so we have to be creative when it comes to building strength and power but my coach and I are finally able to push the envelope. My main focus is to add to the building blocks I’ve put in place last year and to set myself up for the next two years.

AC: What do you most enjoy about the sport of athletics?

KE: I love the idea of pushing my body to its limits and to challenge myself physically and mentally on a daily basis. Achieving my goal after hours, days or even years of putting in the work is the greatest feeling in the world! Although I’m always running against other women at meets, at the end of the day, I’m competing against myself, trying to improve my time and set a new personal best!

The 2014 AC Indoor Open will take place in Montreal, Que., March 14 – 16 at the newly renovated Centre Claude-Robillard. The event serves as a Canadian Championship for youth and junior athletes and will feature a number of Olympians and World Championship national team members in invitational events. For more information and to register for the inaugural AC Indoor Open visit www.indoors.athletics.ca.