Buon giorno! I am back from spending about two weeks in Italy competing at the FISU World University Games! For those who missed it, here's a little recap!
Competing on the FISU team has been something I have dreamt of making for over four years. I have been close, but always seemed to miss out in the end each time. In 2015 I dealt with a stress fracture injury to my right foot, causing me to struggle to hit standard for FISU and then end my season early all together. In 2017 I had a spectacular fall at Nationals in the 100mH semi finals (Nationals were also the qualifying meet for FISU that year) and thus failed to qualify for the final and race to earn my spot on the team. That time, I felt like a complete failure and that everything I had worked for that whole season was gone within seconds. I didn't get the chance to fight for myself. I assumed my dream of competing at FISU was gone for good.
Flash forward to this year when my decision to go back to school for my Master's degree made me eligible for FISU once again. I felt that I had another chance at finally qualifying for the team I had dreamt of competing on. More than that, I truly felt that this was my year. If I was going to make the team, I was in it for more than to just compete; I was going in it aiming to win.
Of course, those things most worth having don't always come easy. I found myself having to prove my spot for this team more than I could have every thought I would have to. I spent most of the month of May wrapped up in this stress and anxiety, which showed on my body as I began to deal with a hamstring problem. When everything finally settled, I still felt that I had to prove that I truly deserved my right to be on the team. However, my anxieties gladly proved to be false once I arrived in Italy. I relaxed as I finally felt that I was truly deserving of being there, just as everyone else. I found that I relaxed into being myself and just enjoyed the experience fully.
My FISU experience was everything I could have imagined and more. For my first large scale international track meet, I can't remember competing somewhere where I felt so completely relaxed and confident in myself. I trusted in myself, the work I had done to get there, and truly let myself just enjoy the moment and race. I tried to let my nerves work for me and feel them as excitement and not fear. When things didn't go exactly 'to plan' I didn't let them bother me. The call room and warm up track situations weren't ideal (in fact, I can now say that I know what it is like to have a police escort you to your race!); I lost my headphones the day before I competed; my physio band snapped in half while I was warming up for the prelims. I didn't allow any of these things to phase me and I do believe it showed when I competed. I qualified for the final in a time 0.01s off my PB. I felt so ready to lay down something big in the final, that time I have been dreaming of all this season, medal within my reach. In the end I finished 5th, having come in ranked 11th. Just going to show that rankings truly do not matter when it comes to competing. My final might not have been my smoothest race, knocking the 9th hurdle down to the ground, but honestly, I can't image having run that race any differently. I ran in an incredibly competitive field with the winner of our race running the auto-qualifying standard for the 2020 Olympic Games (WOW!) I fought my way to that finish line, and I know the results I am waiting for are coming sooner than I can imagine. I am ready for them and I know now more than ever what I am capable of achieving.
I was slightly overwhelmed after my race with the amount of people who I saw had watched me compete and reached out to me on social media. I can't describe how much it means to me for every person who thought to message me about my performance. If you reached out to me and I didn't get a chance to respond, please know how appreciative I am of your support! I loved seeing my teammates and new friends in the crowd cheering me on as I competed in the final; it made me smile and feel even more confident. And of course, having my coach Vickie with me at this meet every step of the way was both a huge comfort and an incredible joy to share this experience with her!
After I finished competing I got the chance to enjoy a bit of Italy, which was pretty incredible, especially since it's not always that I get to actually experience the places that I compete in. I got to explore the streets of Naples, swim in the ocean (closer to the shoreline for myself), spend a day with friends experiencing the ruins of Pompeii, and of course enjoying some truly amazing pizza and gelato! I can confidently say pizza will never be the same again, and I am already missing the endless supply of Italian espresso we had available to us on our cruise ship athlete village. The staff on the ship were especially kind to us Canadians! For my first time in Italy, I feel that I am definitely walking away with a ton of memories to last a life time, some new friends to catch up with on and off the track, and perhaps a little bit of food nostalgia.
Coming away from my first major international games (just out of medal reach), I know I am capable of so much more! I've had my taste of what it is like to be on the big stage and I am hungry for more. I want to be back in that atmosphere more than ever now. And luckily, this season isn't finished yet! Canadian National Championships are coming up in less than a week. I believe that a spot on the IAAF World Team is within my reach. There's a lot more left in this tank and I am ready to go out and get what I want, what I know I deserve, and what I believe I am fully capable of.
Ciao for now!