Just days before Friday’s start to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, one of Canada’s veteran athletes was staying clear of the hype.
Saanich-based 1,500-metre specialist Hillary Stellingwerff, 34, was in Guelph, Ont., part of an Olympic preparation camp with several track runners. It was actually a family affair for Stellingwerff, whose coach and husband, Trent, was also there with their two-year-old son Theo. The trio are Saanich regulars, often on the track at Centennial Stadium and at the Canadian Sports Institute facilities at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence where Trent is based.
“Guelph is a great place to train,” Stellingwerff said. “It will allow for heat adaptation similar to what we’ll experience in Rio and is only an hour time change to Rio.”
The presence of Theo’s grandparents in Guelph, available for child care, is an added bonus, she said.
After a strong career with multiple podium finishes at the Canadian championships, Stellingwerff is eager to prove herself. At the 2012 London Games she made it through the qualification round but was pipped at the finish line of the semifinals by American Shannon Rowbury by a tenth of a second, 4:05.47 to 4:05.57.
Stellingwerff and teammates will fly into Rio de Janeiro four days before they compete. (Theo will have to stay behind.) Health and safety are only part of the strategy to arrive close to the date of competition, which begins Aug. 12 with the final set for Aug. 16.
“Being in the Olympic Village for too long can be overwhelming, you don’t want to get hyped up too early or for too long… even for the London Games we were only in the Olympic Village a few days before [the event] for the same reason.”
Stellingwerff is one of three Canadians going to Rio for the 1,500m, with Nicole Sifuentes and Gabriela Stafford. At the July 9 Track and Field Championships in Edmonton it was Stafford winning the 1,500m with a time of 4:18.51 ahead of second-place Sifuentes (4:18.650) and third-place Stellingwerff (4:18.987).
The Edmonton conditions were slower than the personal bests of the athletes who all met the 4:07 Olympic standard, and who will likely have to record a sub-four minute run to reach the podium in Rio.