Perdita Felicien

Being an outsider is fine - Felicien
Tuesday 26 August 2003
Paris, France - For Canadian hurdler Perdita Felicien, a two-time NCAA 100m hurdles champion, being an outsider in Paris suits her just fine.

“I love it,” the 22 year-old from Pickering, Ontario said after her near PB 12.70 yesterday, the second fastest time of the opening round. “I always tell people that this is so much easier that being at the NCAA championships because there, everyone expects Perdita from Illinois to win.”

Well after tongiht’s run in the semi final stage in which she was the second fastest qualifier with another PB of 12.68, the pressure is sure to start mounting very soon, as Canada begins to smell the hint of a gold medal in Paris 2003 Saint-Denis.

After finishing second to world leader Brigitte Foster at the Pan-American Games earlier this month, the junior from the University of Illinois quietly lowered her PB to 12.67 less than two weeks ago with her win in Zurich’s “B” Race.

Felicien said that her long collegiate season, which began indoors with an NCAA indoor title in March, doesn’t play a major role here. She’s fresh and ready.

“We’ve kind of just learned through the years that I have to pick my races each season,” she said, stressing the quality of races over quantity. “I didn’t run alot collegiately, knowing that this one was the big one for the years.”

A semi-finalist in Edmonton, Felicien has already proved she has improved, and is confident that she can step up several more notches in Paris, particularly as “the unknown.”

“No one here really knows me, an no one really cares,” she said of her darkhorse role. “So hopefully they’re not paying too much attention to me and I can sneak up into the medals.”

She expects that 12.59 will be require for a medal.

“I think I’m capable of it. If I can turn some heads on Wednesday, that will be great. Hopefully, I’ll be the spoiler.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

Sprint for cash Felicien’s next hurdle

Friday, August 29, 2003 - Page S1

Perdita Felicien’s gold came in 12.53 seconds, her cash may have to wait.

Whooshing down a track in Paris may not generate an immediate financial windfall for the Canadian hurdling sensation, but her gold medal performance Wednesday could pay off a year from now in Athens.

There are two reasons why financial benefits for the Pickering, Ont., athlete may have to be deferred following her surprise win at the world athletics championships.

One is that success at the world championships doesn’t connect with the general public the way success at the Olympic Games does. The other is that Felicien is committed to returning to the the University of Illinois and competing again in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, whose eligibility requirements prevent her from profiting from her success as an athlete.

But her win has put her on the map, sports marketing experts say, and positions her as one of the handful of Canadian athletes heading to Athens that could be in line for some significant corporate support, especially if she can duplicate her success in Paris.

“Will her profile be increased significantly? Yes. Will marketers look at her as someone to target leading up to Athens? Yes. From that standpoint, her timing couldn’t be better,” says Elliott Kerr, who represents speed-skating star Catriona LeMay Doan, among other Olympic athletes. “If she can repeat her gold medal in Athens, she could do very well financially. But if she only medals or makes the finals, then not so much.”

Her fortune, such as it may be, will have to wait.

While rules on amateurism have long ago been lifted as it relates to the Olympics and world championships, the NCAA takes a low view of athletes who earn money from sports.

Her decision to return to school already means that Felicien will have to forgo the $50,000 (U.S.) first prize that the IAAFF awards. It could also have some ramifications for companies who may want to begin the marketing cycle before Felicien is finished school in the spring. She is forbidden by NCAA rules from having an agreement with an agent – verbal or written, and can’t have any marketing deals directly related to her sport.

“Going back to school could limit the amount of time that companies can invest in her if they want to get their pre-Olympic programs going early,” said Blake Corosky, who represents a number of Olympic athletes.

But the prevailing view is that it won’t be a significant issue. “The reality is companies won’t really begin to use her until closer to the Games next summer, so if there is interest [her NCAA eligibility] will only make it a degree awkward, but it’s not an obstacle that can’t be overcome,” said Kerr, who plans to contact Felicien about representing her.

Corosky agreed, suggesting that the likely scenario is that rather than signing a formal agreement with an agent, her family might retain the services of an adviser and that deals could be arranged and readied for signing the moment her NCAA career ends. “Chances are there will likely be deals waiting and pens out, waiting for her to sign,” he said.

While a relative unknown until her race Wednesday night, she’s already come across positively in interviews, say the experts, which can only help her marketability.

“She comes across well and expresses herself intelligently,” says Keith McIntyre of K.Mac and Associates, a Mississauga, Ont., marketing company that helps companies identify athletes for endorsement roles. “That’s important, and we’ve been crying for a female track and field star, so we’ll definitely be looking at her as a possible match for our clients.”

McIntyre said that any deals Felicien signs leading up to the Games will likely be fairly modest, earning her about $25,000 each.

“It won’t be a huge amount,” McIntyre said. “But you know what? It’s a heck of a lot more that she had 48 hours ago.”

He real payoff could come from a run of success that lasts more than one Olympic cycle. LeMay Doan became a star in Nagano in 1998, and signed deals worth about $3-million (Canadian) over her career, which ended with a gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002.

“Her real payoff would come after the Games if she can win in Athens,” McIntyre said.

Before Wednesday’s race, Felicien’s fortunes were such that she qualified for a $5,000 grant from the See You in Athens fund, a non-profit organization that assists Olympic athletes.

“She’ll have her cheque waiting for her when she gets home,” said Jane Roos, the fund’s founder and executive director. “Even if she does get some corporate sponsorship, it won’t kick in for awhile.”

Illini star sets Canadian national record with winning time of 12.53 seconds

Aug. 27, 2003

Paris, France - Illini track star Perdita Felicien reached the pinnacle of her sport today, winning the gold medal at the 2003 World Track & Field Championships in Paris, France. Felicien, running for her native Canada, claimed the world title in record-setting fashion, shattering her previous personal best by winning today’s final in a time of 12.53 seconds, also setting a new Canadian national record. With the win, Felicien becomes the first female in Illinois track & field history to claim a gold medal in an individual event at the World Championships. Illini alum Celena Mondie-Milner also won a gold medal as part of the United States 4x100 meter relay team at the 1995 World Championships.

It has been an amazing year for the 22-year old native of Pickering, Ontario. Felicien capped off her NCAA outdoor career by winning her second consecutive 100m hurdles national title en route to earning NCAA Female Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors. She won a silver medal at the Pan American Games earlier this month and set her previous personal best of 12.67 seconds in a win at Zurich, Switzerland two weeks ago. At the Worlds, Felicien won her preliminary heat Monday with a time of 12.70 seconds and won her semifinal heat yesterday in a time of 12.68. In that race, she beat the No. 1-ranked hurdler in the world in three-time world champion Gail Devers. That set the stage for Felicien’s dramatic performance in today’s final.

Felicien will soon return to campus, where she has one indoor season of eligibility remaining with the Illini.


Finish Athlete Country Time
1st Felicien, Perdita CAN 12.53 *
2nd Foster, Brigitte JAM 12.57
3rd McKelvy, Miesha USA 12.67
4th Alozie, Glory ESP 12.75
5th Trywianska, Aurelia POL 12.75
6th Adams, Jenny USA 12.77
7th Girard, Patricia FRA 12.83
8th Golding-Clarke, Lacena JAM 12.87
9th Dixon, Vonette JAM 12.87

  • = Canadian National Record

On the feeling of being a World Champion…
“I’m in shock, it feels great. I have set up my whole year to do this, and for this to finally happen for me now is great. I would have been satisfied with any medal, but to have the gold is just icing on the cake right now.”

On the magnitude of defeating world-class competitors…
“It’s overwhelming once I sit down and think about the names and really absorb the intense competition. But seriously, before I thought about all the names and experience they had, I just really set out to do what I did tonight.”

On what she remembers from the race and if she has seen a tape of it…
“No, I have only been able to see clips of the race so far. But I know when I see it I won’t believe it. I knew I needed a fast start and I practiced it a lot. It seemed to have paid off. I knew I was ahead and did everything possible to stay ahead until the finish line. I was just going for it hurdle after hurdle, but I still cannot believe it.”

On going into the race as an underdog…
"It was really great to compete with relatively no pressure on me. At the NCAA Championships, many people expected me to win, but here nobody thought of it so I felt much more relaxed.

On setting a personal best time…
“It was definitely the perfect race for today, but I know there is so much more I need to improve on, and so I am glad that I am going to be able to get faster. I just need to come back to Earth after this and get back to work because Athens (2004 Summer Olympics) is coming up.”

On recapping the race…
“It’s like I said 20 minutes before the race that this was really anybody’s race. I was really proud of Perdita in how she handled the semifinal race last night. There were four false starts before they finally got off and for most people, that can really mess up your concentration. But Perdita really kept her composure and did a great job to win that semifinal. The young lady has a natural gift of handling pressure situations. She can keep her composure in a lot of heat and she will never experience any more heat than she did tonight.”

On Felicien setting a personal best time in the race…
“I’ve known for the last four weeks she was capable of that time. It’s been there in training and when she was at the Pan American games, and that was an ugly race in my opinion because we were poor to the first hurdle and we didn’t finish well at the end of the race. I told her if she can run 12.67 doing those things, then 12.50s were certainly within her reach. I really haven’t had a chance to analyze the race yet, but I would say she corrected a lot of those things tonight.”

On Felicien gaining respect internationally…
“I think she has started to earn it. With the Canadian team we went to Zurich for the Weltklasse meet on August 15th and that really is the biggest Golden League meet on the circuit in terms of exposure. She ended up winning the “B” race, which they didn’t feel she was good enough to compete in the “A” race and she finished with the third overall time out of both races. That field was really a fantastic field and at that point people were starting to say, ‘This young lady is for real,’ and could possibly be someone who could be a finalist here in Paris.”

On Felicien’s performance possibly rating as the best moment of his track coaching career…
“I wouldn’t say it was the best because when Tonja Buford-Bailey won the silver medal at the 1995 World Championships (in the 400m hurdles) and broke the world record in doing so, it is tough to separate that from this. I’m not going to judge one over the other because they are both great pinnacles and great performances. This is my first gold medalist in a World Championship, so I’m extremely excited.”

Success leaves Felicien speechless (almost)

Globe and Mail Update

For most Canadians, Perdita Felicien burst into stardom one month ago with a roar — striding to a world championship in the 100-metre hurdles before a cheering crowd at the Stade de France in Paris.

The 23-year-old track and field star is back home today in Pickering, Ont. — not with a roar, but a whisper. It’s a symptom of success.

“I have laryngitis from a cold and from having to talk to so many people over the past month,” said Felicien on an interview.

In the past month, Felicien has returned to class at the University of Illinois in Champaign, made the decision to turn professional, been wooed by at least four agents wanting to book her for races, for personal appearances and to sell her image. She’s consulted track hero Donovan Bailey several times about how to wear the mantle of victory and patiently told and retold her story in interviews by the hundreds.

The toll of too much talking was apparent yesterday as she softly croaked: “I wish I had my old voice back so I could say ‘Thank you.’ This is torture.”

Felicien may not have her vocal cords in singing shape, but she feels just about everything else in life is going her way. The one sacrifice she has made to success is her eligibility for the college indoor track and field season in the United States.

“Other than that, everything in my life should remain the same,” she said. She doesn’t want to tamper with her recipe for success 11 months before the Athens Olympics.

Felicien will remain in school for her senior year and will stay under the guidance of Illinois coach Gary Winckler.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to turn pro, because it was important to me to remain in school and keep everything intact. I was concerned I couldn’t practise with my teammates. My coach said he’d stand by me if I turned pro and stayed in school. I’ll still live on campus and be around the team. What I can do is start the season by going to early meets with them, but running unattached in meets like the Drake Relays and Penn Relays. Because I’m not actually part of the team, there’s no contamination from my being a professional.”

The university has shown its commitment to Felicien by maintaining her scholarship status, even though she would have forfeit her eligibility.

She had, after all, brought the school long-lasting acclaim with three national college championships and its first world championship. The Official College Sports News service, linking 135 schools in the United States, trumpeted: “Her feat marks possibly the greatest moment in Illinois women’s sports history.”

Two weeks ago, with the 60,000-seat Memorial Stadium filled for an Illinois-California football game, Felicien was introduced to the crowd and celebrated as Big 10 Female Athlete of the Year and her school supporters roared for her again.

“It was huge. It would probably amaze people in Canada, but the truth is, it wasn’t a surprise or shock to me down here. These people have known about me longer than most Canadians. They’ve seen me win. They’ve even cheered when I got academic accolades,” Felicien said.

After the early season meets in North America where she will get her legs in rhythm, Felicien will go to the European pro circuit to hone her speed and competitive strategies for the international fields and the Olympic Games. She expects to race about once a week, then, closer to the Games, have a couple of high-intensity meets “to mimic the rounds I’ll go through at the Olympics.”

Without an agent, she has no idea how much the asking price will be in appearance money as a world champion, but it could be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. She expects to decide upon an agent within the next two weeks.

“Í want to be comfortable with my choice. I’ve been talking with Donovan, because he’s had the success and he’s knowledgeable and savvy in this area.”

One thing she does not want to do is run herself into the ground looking for appearance fees before the Olympics. “I’m not going to mess with the formula that has worked,” she said of her career to date.

"To be a champion, you have to believe and live like a champion. You can run too much, like you can eat too much.

“You’re only ever one injury away from the end of your career.”

She says that with the $60,000 (U.S.) prize money for her world championship at her disposal, she will buy a car to get around while at school, but otherwise will bank the rest. “It’s important to me that when I’m done my track career, I have something to show for it.”

Although she is a world champion and set a blazing Canadian record time of 12.53 seconds with her Paris win, she still needs to formally qualify for the Canadian Olympic team by finishing in the top four at the Canadian trials.

Felicien - well grounded and Budapest bound
Thursday 15 January 2004
Although she is the reigning World 100m Hurdles champion Canadian Perdita Felicien is undoubtedly entering a new chapter in her young career and it is forward she is looking not reverse.

As the Canadian flag was run up the pole in the Stade de France last August Canadian journalists scrambled to look up her biography, so astonishing was her victory. Now she is, shall we say, much more familiar.

Last month she was named Canadian Female Athlete of the Year which meant being asked to do countless interviews and television appearances. Nevertheless, this 23 year old seems well grounded.

Priority one is the World Indoor Championships

Having retained Renaldo Nehemiah of Octagon Sports Management to handle the business side of her career - she wisely accepted the $60,000 US prize money for her Paris victory thus terminating her NCAA collegiate career - Felicien is now looking to explore her true talents on the European circuit. Priority one is the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest, 5 - 7 March 2004.

"I am a good 60m runner. I think that I am,"she responds when asked to rate her chances in Budapest. “I am definitely a better 100m hurdler than I am a 60m hurdler because the first phase of my race is not my strongest. But going into the World championships I think also the goal would be to be World Indoor champion as well, and to use the 60m Hurdles just to get my outdoor race better.”

“My goals have to be high now. My goals can¹t be easy ones like they had been in college. My goals really have to challenge me so that I feel I have accomplished something when I get there. I think everyone¹s goal is to win. You¹re not running to be second best. You¹re not running to be mediocre. You are running to be an Olympic gold medallist. You are running to be a champion.”

“So my main goals are to progress like I have been. I am not going to put too much emphasis on winning because, again, I am only 23 and I have a lot to learn. I have never been in this system before. And so I think I am going to go through some growing pains but I certainly believe I can handle everything that is going to come my way this year.”

“I don’t fizzle under pressure”

The leap from NCAA champion to being the best in the world is an enormous one. As a collegiate athlete at the University of Illinois she was expected to peak twice a year - in March and in June. That meant sacrificing her international career to some extent. Between the NCAA championships and Paris she raced a handful of times only. Already she has consulted with coach Gary Winckler and Illiinois assistant Tanja Buford-Bailey, who knows a thing or two about hurdling herself, about how best to approach the indoor season as well as the Olympics.

“I know intense competition is going to bring the best out of me. I have always prided myself on being a big meet performer. I have proven I can deliver, I don¹t fizzle under pressure,” she declares.

“So I have made it a point not to focus on the money or the purse or “I have to run this meet because of what the prize will be” I want it to be part of my Olympic campaign.”

“And if it doesn¹t fit in I am not going to try to fit it in because I am going to get paid ‘x’ amount of Euros. If that means running only twice a week and only being in Europe for two weeks and then going home because it¹s part of the plan then that’s fine.”


Felicien graduates from Illinois this spring with a degree in Kinesiology and for all intents and purposes she remains the joyful college student buzzing from class to class on her well worn ten speed bike. Though she can well afford a car she claims she really has no need of one. She also shares an off campus apartment with the same roommate.

Win or lose in Budapest and Athens one senses that Canada¹s latest athletics hero will remain unchanged.

Paul Gains for the IAAF

Worth including the image…

Canada’s Perdita Felicien wins gold in 60 metre hurdles at track and field indoor worlds

March 7, 2004 BUDAPEST - Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont., won the gold medal in the anxiously awaited showdown with American star Gail Devers Sunday in the women’s 60-metre hurdles at the world indoor track and field championships.

‘’This one’s almost sweeter than the one in Paris,’’ said Felicien, who was named Canada’s female athlete of the year for 2003 after her stunning victory in the 100-metre hurdles at the outdoor worlds last August in the French capital. ‘’Just because it was so hyped.’’

Felicien clocked a Canadian and meet record 7.75 seconds. She finished ahead of Devers, the defending champion and the 60-metre sprint champion on Friday, who was second in 7.78. Linda Ferga-Khodadin of France set a national record for the bronze in 7.82.

Earlier this year Felicien finished second to the 37-year-old Devers at two events in the U.S. The Canadian said she was going to approach the indoor worlds with as much intensity as an Olympic final. Now Felicien will probably the favourite in Athens in the 100 hurdles, with her two world titles in her pocket.

‘’This victory definitely raises the stakes for me,’’ said Felicien, the first Canadian woman to win gold at the indoor worlds and Canada’s first champion at the event since Bruny Surin took the 60-metre title in 1995. ‘’The expectations will be higher. The most important thing is to be ready for the big ones (major competitions).’’

In the opening heat Sunday morning, Felicien neared her personal best time with a 7.91 clocking. Then she broke the Canadian record in the semifinal with a 7.83. She previously shared the mark at 7.90.

‘’I knew I could win here but I would have been happy with any medal, even a bronze’’ said Felicien, 23, in her first season as a pro after a success NCAA career at the University of Illinois. ‘’When I broke the Canadian record in the semifinal, that was my gold medal.’’

There was one false start in another lane in the final but that didn’t bother Felicien, who was running out of lane five.

‘’My coach (Gary Winkler) said there would probably be a false start’’ she said. ‘’He said if it happens just walk back to the lane as if nothing happened.’’

Hurdler Perdita Felicien wins 60-metre event at world indoor championship

Canadian Press

Sunday, March 07, 2004

BUDAPEST (CP) - When Perdita Felicien crossed the finish line in the 60-metre hurdles at the world indoor track and field championships Sunday, it took a minute for it to sink in that she had just won her second world title.

The hurdler from Pickering, Ont., shattered her own Canadian record to win the 60-metre event, edging overwhelming favourite Gail Devers of the United States. Linda Ferga-Khodadin of France took bronze.

Following her victory, Felicien stood motionless on the track staring at the scoreboard for confirmation. She eventually erupted in a scream of delight when her name appeared in first position then set off on a joyful victory lap.

“I am calm now but I was acting a fool on the track. I am very excited,” she said. “In a way, this is even sweeter for me than Paris was, only because I came here as a world champion and there was this added pressure and expectation on me and I produced.”

On Sunday, Felicien finished in 7.75 seconds, a Canadian and meet record. Devers crossed in 7.78 seconds while Ferga-Khodadin clocked 7.82. Felicien became Canada’s first champion at the event since Bruny Surin took the 60-metre title in 1995.

Felicien, who was named the 2003 Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year, also captured the outdoor title in the 100-metre hurdles last year and will be a contender at this summer’s Athens Olympics.

“This victory definitely raises the stakes for me,” said Felicien, the first Canadian woman to win gold at the indoor worlds. “The expectations will be higher. The most important thing is to be ready for the big ones (major competitions).”

In other action Sunday, Russia set a world record of three minutes 23.88 seconds in the 1,600-metre women’s relay while Sweden’s Christian Olsson tied the world mark in the triple jump with a leap of 17.83 metres. Olsson matched the record of Cuba’s Aliecer Urrutia, set in 1997, on his third jump.

Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia added the long jump title to her triple jump gold medal to complete an unprecedented double while Olympic champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique also made history, becoming the first athlete in history to win six indoor titles when she captured the 800 metres.

Canada’s 10-member squad ends the competition with one gold and one silver. On Saturday Carmen Douma-Hussar of Cambridge, Ont., placed second in the women’s 1,500 metres in Canadian record time. Angela Whyte of Edmonton failed to make the final in the 200 metres Sunday.

Russia won five of the 15 finals on the last day of the three-day competition to finish with eight golds. The United States had four golds in a total of 10, second to Russia’s 19.

In the opening heat Sunday morning, Felicien neared her personal best time with a time of 7.91. Then, in the semifinal, she broke the Canadian record of 7.90 she had shared with Keturah Anderson with a time of 7.83.

“When I broke the Canadian record in the semifinal, that was my gold medal,” she said.

She said a false start in the final helped her realize what she needed to do to win.

“The first false start I realized that I really wasn’t being aggressive and I kind of felt I was being left behind,” she said. “And when I walked back I said 'My gosh they have given you a second chance you have got to be a little more aggressive coming out of the blocks.”’

When the race finally got underway only Devers beat Felicien out of the blocks.

“At hurdle one I didn’t know what was happening it was all a blur,” said Felicien. “I remember coming off hurdle five and feeling Gail and feeling pressed and I just dug deep.”

Unbeaten all winter in the hurdles, Devers dominated the heats and the semifinal earlier in the day and looked like a certain bet to win gold. After winning the 60-metre sprint on Friday, she chasing an unprecedented double at the championships.

But she had to settle for silver Sunday.

“I wasn’t pleased with my start. My sprinting made my hurdling technique suffer,” Devers said. “I’m glad I came and competed, we’ll see where we go from here.”

Felicien, meanwhile, received congratulations from Colin Jackson, a former world champion hurdler from Britain who is working for BBC television and from former Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey, a commentator for Eurosport Television.

“When I get home to Toronto we sometimes talk on the phone,” she said of Bailey. “It was good to see him here he has been a good mentor of mine and always given me advice.”

Along with the gold medal Felicien will collect $40,000 US in prize money. She says may finally buy a car and retire the rusty bicycle she has been using to get around the University of Illinois campus. On Monday she returns to Illinois to face a barrage of exams she has missed since travelling to Europe two weeks ago.

Perdita Felicien named Canada’s female athlete of the year at Canadian Sport Awards

March 24, 2004 OTTAWA - Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont., won the Velma Springstead Award as Canada’s top female athlete on Tuesday at the 31st Canadian Sport Awards which were held in Toronto.

Felicien received the honor for her performances in 2003 which included the 100-metre hurdles gold medal at the world athletics championships- the first ever world title for Canadian female athlete in track and field- and the NCAA crown in the same event.

She is the award’s first winner in track and field since Angela Taylor took the prize in 1980 and 1982. Diane Jones Konihowski was also a two-time winner in 1975 and 1978.

Felicien beat out two other world champions for the award. They were alpine skier Melanie Turgeon and diver Émilie Heymans.

Athletics Canada chairman Jean-Guy Ouellette was a finalist for the Leadership in Sport Award which recognizes the outstanding contribution of a sport leader or organization that exemplifies the spirit of sport values. Ouellette was instrumental in attracting and organizing the 2003 World Youth Track and Field Championships which were successfully held in Sherbrooke, Que., in July and attracted 1,400 athletes from over 160 countries. The event drew more than 35,000 spectators.

John Furlong who headed Vancouver’s successful bid for the 2010 Olympics won the award. Judy Kent of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport was the other finalist.

Felicien’s Olympic Quest

Monday 12 April 2004

Since adding the World Indoor 60m Hurdles title to the outdoor sprint hurdles gold she won in Paris last summer the accolades have been pouring in for Canada’s Perdita Felicien. Suddenly the country recognises an Olympic gold medal favourite at a time when athletes of this calibre are extremely rare but the delightful 22 year old shows no sign of succumbing to the pressure of a nation’s expectations.

Coping with the pressure

“There is going to be a lot of pressure but I put myself in this bubble,”she explains. “Outside the bubble I know there are expectations and pressure. But within it this is the sport I love, I bring to the start line my confidence - confidence in my training and my abilities, and I think that is really going to take me through.”

“I don’t mind pressure. I honestly don’t shy away from it. I like those type of situations because they have always brought the best out of me and my approach to Athens is going to be like it’s the NCAA. I am going in there I am ready and I am trying to win.”

Her Budapest triumph was replayed on television hundreds of times and she admits this race was possibly even more satisfying than her 100m Hurdles victory simply because she handled the pressure of being a medal favourite so well. Her Paris gold had for all intents and purposes been an enormous shock but no fluke.

Translating her indoor PB form outdoors

A three week break followed her return to the University of Illinois during which she faced several exams missed during the indoor season. She only returned to hurdling the last week of March. Nevertheless, she is delighted with her pre-season preparation and wonders what the personal best 60m hurdles time of 7.75 seconds in Budapest will translate to outdoors.

“I never put limitations or make predictions on myself because I did that indoors. I said I wanted to run 7.85 and I ran 7.75 and so I don’t want to put a limit on myself,” she says with remarkable enthusiasm. “ I mean I am going to lower my personal best (12.53 seconds, recorded in winning the 2003 World Championships). My training is going great. I am a lot stronger, I don’t have to contend with an NCAA schedule and that is only going to work in my favour. So I will say that it’s going to take 12.40 or lower to win the gold in Athens. So, have it that way.”

The last comment is followed by a cheerful laugh and one gets the impression she is embarrassed by her show of confidence. In any case she anxiously waits for the outdoor season to begin. Her agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, who was a pretty good hurdler in his day prior to a successful NFL career, has been carefully mapping out her outdoor schedule. First up is the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa next month.

“I don’t even know my schedule but I am going to be in Rome, I am going to be in Ostrava and Oslo I believe. Again I don’t have my schedule in front of me,” she admits, “and I am not familiar with the meets because I haven’t been there. But I am going to run quite a few in Europe.”

Athens and not money is the focus

“It has been very thorough planning and I like it that way. Right now in my career I am not going for the big pay day. I am just trying to construct a schedule that is going to help me prepare for Athens as well as possible. If that means not racing for a week and half or just going to a smaller meet and not a bigger meet then that is what I am going to do.”

Felicien has the luxury of a Nike shoe contract which allows her the freedom to pick and choose meets without worrying about how to make ends meet. Furthermore, she is still a college student and her needs are by no means outrageous.

“I know athletes now who are trying to compete and have full time jobs,” Felicien declares. “There is no way I could be ready for the summer while holding down a full time job so its definitely given me peace of mind . I am comfortable with Nike because that was what I was competing in at college. For me it’s a great partnership: they want to be number one in what they do and I want to number one in what I do.”

“I will eventually get a car but Champagne is a small campus and I don’t really have a need for it. Plus all my friends have the pain of parking tickets. One of my best friends has racked up $300 worth of parking tickets! My bike is pretty efficient right now. But, I will get a car before Athens, definitely.”

A youthful naiveté and tremendous hunger for success

As she looks ahead to the summer and to the biggest prize an athlete can capture she reveals her youthful naiveté and at the same time her tremendous hunger for success.

“I never thought I would be in this situation. For me the dream of being Olympic champion has always been delayed. I have been thinking 2008 and later on in life,” she admits, “I have a lot of Olympics left in me. I definitely believe that. But I want to get it out of the way now and have that by my name now and not wait another four years. That would be an eternity especially because I know on my best day I am capable of being Olympic champion. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

“I have two World Championship titles now. But no matter how many World Championship titles I garner for the rest of my life they will never equal one Olympic championship gold medal. That’s just the way it is…. The plan is to go into Athens and I definitely believe I am a medal threat and pray that I am ready and its enough to get gold.”

Paul Gains for the IAAF

Felicien - comfortable and looking ahead

Thursday 18 November 2004

Almost three months after her spectacular crash in the Olympic 100m Hurdles final, Canada’s Perdita Felicien has returned to training and is now aiming to reestablishing herself as the world’s premier female sprint hurdler.

The 24 year old is at last comfortable talking about the incident which left her a sobbing mess and compelled her to issue an apology to a disappointed nation but she is also focused on defending her World Championship title in Helsinki next summer.

Facing up to Athens

”I am not tormenting myself over Athens. I mean Athens was definitely the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my career. I am not dwelling on it, but I have heard so much different analysis on what happened,” she says over the telephone from her apartment in Champagne, Illinois.

“Personally, I believe I got a really good start. I got a great start, I have never felt that powerful before. I have never felt my body do that like that night. I just think I wasn’t ready for such a quick start. I was not used to that kind of speed.”

”It is sport. When I signed up for this I knew there would be disappointments I knew I was not always going to win. That’s the nature of sport. Your goal is to win when it really counts and there are going to be other Olympics in me. I know that without a doubt. There’s going to be World Championships, Commonwealth Games and other major championships, and that moment is gone and I can’t dwell on it.”

”Am I still talented? Yes. Do I still believe in myself? Yes. Am I going to come back and prove to everybody else I can do what I did last year again? Yes, I will. I won two World Championships, I keep reminding myself I am capable of winning again.”

Olympic injury legacy

At the moment Felicien is still nursing the injury which resulted from the fall, a deep bone bruise in her left heel. Instead of leaving Athens in haste she remained to take treatment from Canadian team doctors although she was on crutches and, sometimes used a wheelchair to get about.

And rather than mope in her disappointment she even went to the Olympic stadium to watch the competition and shake herself out of the doldrums. It was one night in particular that inspired her, making her realise she could bounce back and keep alive her dream of one day being an Olympic champion.

Inspired by Hicham

”I remember seeing Hicham El Guerrouj win his second race, I was sitting in the stands, It was the (5000m) race with Kenenisa (Bekele), and I was thinking, ‘my goodness I want my moment back’. It was so symbolic to me to see Hicham win like that,” she recalls. “It kind of struck a nerve with me because he didn’t win (Olympic gold medals) two times before that. I felt that was just a huge message for me. So every day I went to the track I was seeing people win and thinking ‘I want my moment.’ But with Hicham, I felt ‘if he can do it I can’. “

The injury meant she was unable to compete in the post Olympic Golden League meetings. Rehabilitation followed but more importantly, for the first time in three years Felicien found time for herself.

She flew to Mexico where she went snorkelling and kayaking in the Caribbean. She went hiking in the forests of British Columbia where she saw black bears in the wild. All this helped restore her extremely positive mental state. And she is also preparing to ditch her ten speed bicycle and purchase her first car. Overall the time off has had an impact on her outlook.

Defending what “belongs to her”

”I am a lot more motivated, a lot more hungry and now I think Helsinki is going to be so important because it is the first major championships since Athens and I am going to have to defend a title that belongs to me,” she reveals. “The only lesson I can gain from this is to continue to be hungry. Before this happened before I got to Athens this dream, this wanting to be the best in track and field, was believing this was so fragile. Now I am cherishing my status and my being able to do something that I love.”

Felicien won’t be duped into naming those she expects to stand between her and a successful title defence. She claims that anyone is capable of winning on a particular day and warns that there may be other athletes who are yet ‘untested’ on the international stage.

Hayes - A formidable opponent

One thing is certain, the woman who claimed the gold that most observers believed had Felicien’s name on it will be a formidable opponent. Joanna Hayes lowered her personal best from 12.50 seconds to an Olympic record of 12.37 seconds while Felicien lay prostrate on the track. The Canadian understands why people were so astonished by Hayes’ performance.

”I guess you could say the same thing about me in Paris I PR’d huge in Paris. I came to the University of Illinois with a PR (personal record) of 13.36 and then eight months later I was running 12.91 seconds,” she recalls. “So I don’t know what to make of her performance. It’s a big meet , there’s a lot on the line, so it is definitely possible to run huge PR’s.”

In or out of the media spotlight next year?

Hayes will likely have the bulk of the attention as Helsinki approaches. After two years where she felt the intense scrutiny of the international media, Felicien thinks this will also be of help.

”That’s an interesting perspective. I think I am going to have some pressure in Helsinki because, one, everyone is going to want to know how I am going to do there and, two, because I am the defending champion. A lot of eyes I know are going to be on me because of what has happened and how am I going to recover from that. Everyone wants that question answered.”

”Of course there will be eyes on Joanna Hayes and she is the Olympic champion and it doesn’t get any better than that. So I guess you are right, it somehow a shared thing some kind of shared pressure. At the same time I don’t mind it, I think its great. My whole focus next year is getting some vindication for what happened in Athens for my own personal self. I am not trying to chase names I am going out there trying to reach my own potential, whatever it is.”

Paul Gains for the IAAF

Felicien tackles the hurdles again

Canadian Press


TORONTO (CP) - Perdita Felicien’s coach gave her no warning - and that’s probably a good thing.

Two weeks ago, back at her training base in Champaign, Ill., Felicien went over hurdles again for the first time since her heart-breaking fall in the Athens Olympic final last August.

Not unlike any other afternoon, coach Gary Winckler handed her the printout of the day’s workout. Written on it: Hurdles.

“I didn’t even know I was going to go over hurdles until I got the sheet, and I thought, `My goodness, I’m hurdling today,’” Felicien said in an interview earlier this week. “I’m like, oh my gosh, you could have at least told me on the weekend and so I could have been ready.”

And although nearly four months had passed since that disastrous evening in Greece, Felicien considered asking Winckler to postpone hurdling just a little while longer.

“And he gave me that option,” she said. "He said, `If you don’t feel like hurdling today, we can push it back to the next week or the week after that.’ But we went ahead and did it.

“And it’s just like riding a bike, you don’t lose too much. It’s just about keeping yourself sharp and getting the rhythm back.”

The going has been slow though, her steps tentative at first. Felicien is still struggling with a deep bone bruise in her left heel, suffered when she slammed her foot into the track after crashing into the first hurdle in Athens. The 24-year-old from Pickering, Ont., has yet to train in track spikes - the shoes are too snug and pinch her already-painful heel - but she may give them a try sometime over the next few days.

She admitted the injury has lingered much longer than she had expected.

"It wasn’t until I think maybe October when we did a second CAT scan that we realized `Oh man, it’s pretty bad,’ " said Felicien. "Since it’s not muscle, it’s the bone that’s bruised really badly, and bone can take up to six months to heal.

“A lot of the treatments that we would use for muscle we can’t use for the bone, because things like ultrasound can retard bone healing. So even the physio that I would normally use is pretty much limited.”

But she’s looking on the bright side. She’s back in Toronto, and has been able to spend more time with her family this Christmas than past years.

She still receives messages of support from fans, most recently in the form of Christmas cards. A couple from Whitby, Ont., sent a Christmas card and included the words of poet John Dryden: “I’m a little wounded but I’m not slain; I will lay me down for to bleed awhile. Then I’ll rise and fight with you again.”<

The past couple of months have been the toughest of Felicien’s career by far, but her attitude has been to look at the challenge as making her stronger.

“Right now I almost like the challenge,” she said. "It has given me something I can sink my teeth into.

"Like I said last year, a lot of it was complacency and being too comfortable. And right now, I really have to work hard to get back to the top of the scene.

“I won the world championships when I was still in college, so I had a lot of success really early on in my career. And what I did back-to-back, most people work their whole life just to win one title and I won two within a short period of time.”

The defending indoor and outdoor world champion in the sprint hurdles has relished every second she has been back on the track - as painful as they have been.

“I realize in my sport things can change overnight and anything can be taken away from you,” she said. “So it makes you appreciate where you are and what you’re doing, and love it that much more.”

Felicien’s heel injury virtually wiped out any hopes of a major indoor campaign, although she would like to race in a couple of indoor events toward the end of the season. She’s planning to open her outdoor season either at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, in late April, or at a meet in Martinique a couple of weeks earlier.

“It’s hot, there would be some good competition, so it would be nice to open up (in Martinique), but I’m not sure yet,” she said. "I have no clue.

"It would be sometime in April. I’m just at the mercy of my training and my heel.

“I took so much time off so I’m a little bit behind, so it’s probably in my best interest to take off the indoor season, but I’m not in any jeopardy of not being ready for anything.”

Felicien will defend her outdoor title at the world championships this summer in Helsinki.

Pressure on Canada’s elite
By ROB LONGLEY – Toronto Sun

HELSINKI – Perdita Felicien was ready to head home yesterday and regroup from another disappointing week in the spotlight.

Then an e-mail sent her way from former world champion Donovan Bailey changed her flight plans from Canada to Zurich, Switzerland, where she will compete next week.

“Donovan said I should get right back at it because that’s always what he did after a bad race,” Felicien said.

“Once I thought about it, I said ‘why not go ahead?’ I’m fit, I’m not hurt or anything, there’s no need to wait for a month to race again. I always believe in that, get right back on. My job is to run no matter what emotions are involved.”

After being limited to a bronze medal here at the 10th IAAF world championship, the Canadian team could use a little more of the fire that retired sprinter Bailey brought to the team back in the 1990s.

The bronze medal won by Tyler Christopher in the men’s 800 metres avoided the shutout for a Canadian team that was shut out in Athens.

It hardly was a big turnaround.

In fact, Canada hasn’t captured a medal of any colour at the Olympic Games since 1996, which only adds to the urgency of turning things around for Beijing in 2008.

Felicien’s failure to advance to the final in the 100-metre hurdles was Canada’s biggest disappointment here.

But factor in two medals at the worlds in 2003 in Paris and none in Edmonton in 2001 and it has been a run of troubled times for Canadian track and field.

Athletics Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee seem to be doing their part to improve things by providing beefed up financial support.

But high jumper Mark Boswell, a veteran on the team, said last night the athletes have to bring a little bit of Bailey with them as well.

Boswell remembers the attitude Bailey brought to the track and believes it can and does count for something.

“I think we have a lot of talented young athletes,” Boswell said after narrowly missing the medal podium in his final last night.

"A couple bummed out here and there this week but we’ve just got to stay refocussed and regroup. For me and most of my teammates, the focus is Beijing.

“We’ve got to build up to that stepping stone because we have to grab more medals.”

He may only be 27, but Boswell feels comfortable in assuming a leadership role. He says he had a talk with the men’s 4x100 metre relay team which turned in a poor effort and failed to advance to the final.

“I’m the old athlete on the team and I’ve got to be like a big daddy to some of them,” Boswell said. “They’re young and putting it together slowly. But it will come.”

Felicien, meanwhile, knows she has a leadership role to consider as well, and after back-to-back failures in the biggest competitions – missing the final at this event and falling over the first hurdle in Athens – she is ready to regroup.

“I’m still hungry,” Felicien said. "I have lots of things I need to do in the off-season for next year to get my heart in the right place and stuff. But I’m looking forward to it.


“I know I am at least top eight material. I’ll just have to prove it some other time once I clean up my technique. Helsinki was someone else’s time, not mine.”

It’s not Canada’s time just yet, either.

There were enough encouraging things here to suggest the program is headed in the right direction. But until there are quantifiable results to go with it, Bailey and others are in danger of becoming a distant memory.