Sunday, 1 July 2012

Canadian Olympic Track & Field Trials

This year in London, my Dad is volunteering his services, and will be a driver. Feeling inspired, while still in the UK, I filled out the online form to volunteer at this year's track and field trials for the Canadian team in Calgary. I've never been to a track and field meeting before (not including school), so thought this would be a novel way of taking in the action.
Volunteers weren't supposed to take photos when out on track, so I was cautious about getting my phone out. I was there for the last 2 days, friday and saturday. I caught the sun quite a bit, despite getting myself "oven-ready" with the sunblock.
First of all on friday morning (having got my own run in before I showed up at the track of course) I helped move the pole-vault mattress which seemed to get moved depending on whether the long jump or triple jump was taking place either side. The rest of the day I was helping to move the starter's stairs. It's in the above photo, the heaviest and rustiest piece of equipment at the whole damn track. Some of the events took too long so we had to move fast.
I'd been considered for such tasks as I turned up in my Calgary Half Marathon shirt - "you're the runner? We've got the job for you!" I spent quite a bit of time talking myself down when asked as some seemed to think I was an injured elite or something. One olympic hopeful also helping out that I talked to does the luge (feet first single sledge-like bodsleigh), and said she trains 3 times a day including dragging herself around the gym floor to gain shoulder strength for that all-important start.
A couple of moments that stick in the mind from that day.  One was a 400m hurdles athlete who fell and slowly walked the rest of the way around. His girlfriend emerged from the stand to see him across the line. The other event I recall was a high-school 4x100 relay - they all looked dressed for basketball as opposed to being as aerodynamic (and skimpilly dressed) as possible. One girl laughed quite a lot as the announcer mispronounced her name.

So, on to saturday and the grand finale. The day was of course started off by me getting my workout in. After that, I turned up early and first of all helped see some paralympians from the call room to the shot-put green. The guy I followed walked with a wheeled walking frame and tired quite quickly. Along with friends, he made light of it. "That's the warm-up done!" "Ah, there's the beer tent!"
So I was going to do the stairs again, but the media centre guy showed up saying a fit guy was needed to help the CBC move one of its large cameras. Not wanting to do exactly the same thing, I sprang up from my seat and got the gig. Even closer to the action :)
Having been 1st at the lunch tent I had sausage risotto and rice, friday's having been quinoa and pork.  So first off I stood by the camera for an hour and a half as it covered the ladies pole-vault. It's the kind of enormous clunky camera you'd think doesn't get used anymore. The precision required is quite something for the pole-vault. At this level they probably are fine when it comes to running at the right speed, using the right strength to push off with the pole, etc. But it seemed that timing of each little part of a vault is everything.
Also going on was the mens' triple jump. All have their own specific method. Some want a slow hand clap, some a quick one, and others none at all. One guy kept pacing back and forth in front of me, and another kept spitting in the bin.
I also watched the 3000m steeplechase from the same place. The jumps sure do grind the athletes down. One surprising thing for me was how slow the last couple of runners were in both the mens' and womens' races. If I'd taken part, I believe I would have probably finished 2nd or 3rd from last. 
After that I helped move the camera to the finish line, and shortly after halfway round 1st bend. It wouldn't need moving again for an hour and a half, so I stood near the finish line for the best view in the house. In the above screen grab, I'm to the right of the lady with the green folder.
My chiropractor was there too, though by the time he volunteered there were more than enough chiropractors, so he helped out with doping control. As he was escorting an athlete to a date with a plastic cup, we flashed each other a quick grin. In between camera movements, I helped out with retrieving lane markers. One thing I noticed at the start was how much jumping and thigh slapping athletes did before settling into the blocks, and women seemingly much more than men.
With the final camera movement done - in quite a hurry and it almost tipped over, I could watch the final 3 events. Where I sat I could take some quiet camera photos. Above are the finishes of the womens' and mens' 200 metres.
Finally, the big one: the ladies' 100 hurdles. 6 of the 8 in the final had met the Olympic "A" standard time, so first 3 in this race would go to London regardless. When the 1st false start happened, there was a gasp. It looked like Perdita Felicien had gone too soon. She had been world champion in 2003, and probably would've taken home gold from Athens in 2004 but fell. In 2008 she was injured, so it looked like her Olympic career could be in some trouble as in 2016, she'll be 35. Stranger things have happened maybe. Anyhow, she was allowed to start under protest. 
Th next start didn't happen, apparently because the starter's gun failed. Shortly after that quite a bit of noise from the opposite direction when one cameraman decided to move, spoiling a few photographers' line of sight, and a very loud "dude, you just can't do that!" 3rd start and they came flying through as above. The heptathlete Jessica Zelinka won.
That was that, didn't know what to do when it came to looking for autographs or asking one of them to be in a photo with me. Besides, I had the best view of all the action. So now, back to training for the Stampede 5k next week...


  1. That is so cool, had no idea you could volunteer for this! I'll be "running" the same 5k next week...."running" b/c I just started after not running for 2 mths due to injuries. Good luck on the race!

    1. All the best to you as well - onwards and upwards!

  2. Tony Mitchelmore (Dad)2 July 2012 at 13:39

    Well done Peter, I'll now look forward to laying down some rubber, between the Olympic venues and the West End Hotels.