© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

Eganville, Ontario’s Melissa Bishop has finally had the season to demonstrate her true capability as a world-class BishopVTC_Flash800-metre runner. The talent and execution that she and everyone else knew was there all along appeared in a very big way, but it didn’t come easy.

Bishop’s 2015 season came together as well as anyone could have hoped. She won gold on home soil in the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games, smashed Diane Cummins’s 11-year-old national record of 1:58.39 by racing to a 1:57.52 finish time during the semi-finals at the World Championships and then proceeded to win a silver medal.

“I could not be more thrilled for Melissa and to watch her add her stamp to history in Canadian women’s 800 running! She has firmly arrived on the world stage of Athletics and I know how hard she has worked to get there,” Shared former national record holder, Charmaine Crooks.

Regarding the new national record, Cummins added, “It’s difficult not to be happy for a truly nice person. I honestly feel if anyone else had broken it I would feel sad and possibly anguished. But because it’s Melissa I am happy, for her and for the event and for the sport and for Canada. I know her journey and she truly deserves this success.”

Breaking two minutes

The year that she first tasted national success was 2012, by becoming just the third Canadian all-time to break the two-minute barrier, but the feeling of success was levelled by the sting of bitter defeat in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

She ran a new personal best of 1:59.82 and in so doing qualified for the Olympics. In the first round she finished out of the competition, having run nearly 10 seconds slower than her best and finished with the 30th ranked time. For Bishop running a 2:09.33 in the Olympics did not even qualify as disappointing. Nearly 10 seconds is forever in the 800m event.

Perhaps she peaked early in trying to qualify for the games.

Bishop_FlashVictoria2015During the 2013 IAAF Moscow World Track and Field Championships, she fared little better – although she ran a faster time (how could she not?), with her 2:01.33 performance. It was still not good enough and left her with the 21st best time out of 32 athletes for the preliminary heats. Again it was a bittersweet season. In Victoria on July 5th, she had run a new personal best time of 1:59.76.

At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games Bishop, known by friends and family as “Bish” appeared once again that she was ready to have an excellent performance, having run yet another personal best in Victoria on July 8th. She finished in the time of 1:59.70. This time she made it out of the preliminary heats; she won in the time of 2:01.73. She then finished second in the semi-finals in the time of 2:01.86. However, she finished dead-last in the finals, in the time of 2:02.63. Kenyan Eunice Sum won as she did during the 2013 Worlds, this time in 2:00.31. Scotland’s Lindsey Sharp earned a silver medal for her 2:01.34 efforts. It seems that there is a hometown advantage in global championships. Ugandan Winnie Nanyondo earned bronze in the time of 2:01.38.

In May of 2015 Bishop sprained her ankle. Her season would start later than usual. She was fit in May; however, her sharpness would have to wait until her ankle was ready. She started racing in the National Track League, which includes the Victoria Track Classic and the Harry Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver. She raced Harry Jerome on June 8th and finished in the time of 2:01.67 in a close finish behind Jessica Smith of North Vancouver, who won in the time of 2:01.40 and Langley’s (Vancouver Suburb) Fiona Benson who finished in 2:01.48. Was this a hometown victory and second place finish for Smith and Benson?

Two nights later Bishop would have another go at Benson and Smith in Victoria. Smith had a rough outing, it happens, but this time Benson won and Bishop finished second – well they actually tied and the win was given to Benson, they both crossed the line in 2:01.02. Third was American Sarah Brown who finished in 2:01.56.

Bishop continued to mix it up with competitive fields. Perhaps just trying to provoke some sharpness, certainly to run a time well under 2:00.00 or at least under the World Championships and Olympic standard of 2:01.00.

Sensing that she is ready to pull off a fast race, she left the confines of the west coast for Switzerland and there ran to a new personal best in Lucerne in the time of 1:59.52.

In that race, she qualified and demonstrated fitness enough to compete in the Beijing World Championships, for the Pan Ams, all she needed to do was be the first or second fastest Canadian. She also was peaking later; perhaps the injury was a blessing.

The IAAF World Track and Field Championships are as big in track and field competition as the Olympics. Although the Olympics are on a much bigger stage, generally speaking, winning gold in either carries nearly the same value. And regardless of the notoriety of the Olympics, the competition in track for both is just as tough.

Bishop showed up in Beijing ready, having run a new personal best time and winning the gold on home soil at the Pan Am Games.

Rachel Francois, Diane Cummins and Melissa Bishop - Copyright - Athletics Illustrated
Rachel Francois, Diane Cummins and Melissa Bishop – Copyright – Athletics Illustrated

She ran in the final heat of the first round, which gave her the advantage of knowing how fast she would need to run, in addition to how high she should place to make it on to the next round. As expected none of the 38 athletes from the first five heats ran faster than they needed to, to move on. Just six ran under two minutes none under 1:58.00. Bishop followed suit and won the sixth heat just as fast as she needed to, appearing smooth and very much in control with her 2:00.23 finish time.

Again Bishop got to run in the final heat of the semi-finals. This time nine of 16 athletes in the first two heats ran under two minutes; as expected things were getting a little more serious. Additionally, Bishop was set to compete with defending champion Sum and a Belarussian named Marina Arzamasova, who was looking strong. Bishop needed to exert her talent and she did by winning and finishing in a new Canadian record with an eye-popping performance of 1:57.52. This was the fastest performance so far in the 2015 World Championships.

In the finals, it was a close finish. Sum finished third in 1:58.18 and the Belarussian surprisingly won in the time of 1:58.03. Bishop earned the silver medal crossing the line in 1:58.12, she finally earned redemption.

Fellow 800m runner, Anthony Romaniw said, “Bish is a freaking beast! I am super proud of her and very jealous, but mostly just very proud!”

“I can’t wait to watch her stellar career as it continues to bloom. I was fortunate to spend some time with her and her family at the Pan Am Games and she is a great representative for Canada—I am wishing her great things ahead!” shared Crooks.

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