Every four years, the world gathers at the Olympics to witness incredible achievements of athleticism. But often, we overlook the fact that these athletes use every single day between the Olympics to prepare. For some Olympians, like Canada’s Perdita Felicien, four years of intense training go towards a race that lasts less than 13 seconds, where differences get measured by hundredths of a second.
When Perdita won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2003 World Track & Field Championships she set a new Canadian and personal record time of 12.53 seconds. Despite her podium finish Perdita knew there was still much training ahead as she was only 0.22 seconds better than fourth place. “It was definitely the perfect race for today,” she said, “but I know there is so much more I need to improve on.”
While at Pine Ridge High School in Pickering, Ontario, Perdita worried about losing, so-much-so that she wouldn’t even try out for the team—until two friends changed her life. “I didn’t start until I was in the 11th grade in high school. I actually started really late,” she says. “I remember one day two of my friends who wanted me on their relay team dragged me to the gym and I was fighting them, I was like, ‘No, no, I’m not going out for the team, I don’t want to get beat,’ so for two years I wasn’t on the track team. And then in the 11th grade, I was a little more mature and I thought, let me see what I can do.”
What she could do amazed people. It earned her a scholarship to the University of Illinois. Now at 23 years old, Perdita is one of the best hurdlers in the world with no signs of slowing down. However, she has not lost sight of her education and has developed a schedule which includes school. “I’m still a student,” she says. “My typical day is going to class, then going to practice, then doing some homework, and doing everything for the next day, you know, getting up for class and going to track.” She has earned academic honours.
Marion Jones, the fastest woman on earth and arguably the best female athlete in the world, says her goals were clear right from the start. “Without a doubt I knew when I was six years old that I was going to be the fastest woman in the world. I wrote it on the chalkboard when I was nine that I was going to be an Olympic champion,” she says. It’s hard to imagine anyone who stands on a podium got there without first believing they could.
Canadian Simon Whitfield, from Kingston, Ontario, and gold medalist in the triathlon at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, says, “As a young athlete I had a tremendous internal belief. My goal was to be one of the best in the world at something. When I aspired to be a triathlete I had this real belief that I could do this.”
Becoming the best in the world is also about sacrifice and determination. Brent Hayden, 20, from Mission, BC, is the Canadian record-holder for the 100m freestyle swim, and like all other elite athletes, he has had to make adjustments to his lifestyle to pursue his dreams. Since high school, Hayden has trained six days a week for four to five hours a day (as well as a 45-minute commute), writing off any chance of a normal social life. “I never went to any parties in high school but now that I am out of high school and I am doing this, I have gotten to experience a lot of things my friends will never get to experience,” he says. “I get to travel all over the world, I have seen so many different things and I get to compete with some of the top athletes in the world.
According to the best of the best, the road from high-school athlete to world competitor is obviously paved with hard work, dedication, self-belief and focus. “I’m not going to the Olympics to party every night,” Hayden says. “I am there to compete and to win.”
Olympic swimmer Brent Hayden with Lorraine from Faze
Written by Faze intern, James Chung