My Cinderella Story – Pan Am Games Part 1

I had not realized how long it has been since I last posted to my blog. With the excitement of the Pan Am Games I have lost all track of time. To say it was a thrilling, amazing experience is an understatement. I met amazing people, my city, Toronto, gave a world-class show, and, I think, all the athletes had a great time.

AO SASHA 4I am going to try to capture what the race was like; the next post will be about everything else related to the games. But why I Cinderella Story? Well because I lost my shoe, ok half lost my shoe. ~150m into the race. Not 150m to go. 150m in! I was thinking, if it had been a glass shoe, when the person stepped on it, the shoe would have shattered! Although running in heeled, glass shoes would have to be an event in itself!

The women’s 1500m semi-final was slated for the morning of July 24th and the final the next evening, the last evening of track events. When one of the American girls dropped out the field was down to 12 and the semi-final was cancelled. I’ve been having some challenges with my calf and heel so a straight final was good news for me.

Since I was the last night I watched many of my 87 other teammates compete. Through the week I saw and heard all about success and, unfortunately, some defeats. It was heartbreaking to watch my friends not do as well as they wanted. And it was intimidating to see others do so well. But I did what I needed to do and tried as best possible to focus in on my task, winning the 1500m final.

I started my warm up a few minutes earlier than usual with the call time windows were presented with. I did sneak out of the stadium to run since 20 minutes of laps on a track is not that enjoyable. Heading out of the warm-up track the first people I saw were my coaches, Terry and Ross. My heart smiled, I hugged them and continued on my warm up jog.

The call room was in the indoor track. It was great; you were away from the crowds and the people, there was a bathroom close by, and on that hot and humid night, there was air-conditioning. 15 minutes before the start we were lined up and led out to the track.

When I walked into the stadium it was electrifying. I heard my name being called from every direction. It was a sea of red and I was determined to find some of the people who had come out to watch me. The first person I spotted was Honor, jumping up and down in her seat.

A few more strides in my spikes. Glasses on. Family spotted. I was ready for the race. I thought to myself, trust the process, you’ve had some amazing workouts, now go out there have fun and give it your all.

PanAm T&F 25 July 15 031 SG StartLined up the gun went off. With 12 girls who are all pretty quick it was a bit of a jockeying match for position. I did my usual and was approximately midway in the pack on the outside of lane 1. At approximately 150m disaster struck; someone stepped on the heel of my shoe knocking my shoe part way off.

Almost a year ago exactly at Heusden-Zolder someone knocked my shoe off, thePanAm-Sasha-8316-4
same shoe in fact! What are the odds that someone has their shoe knocked off twice in a lifetime, let alone a year? Back then I promised myself if it ever happened again I was dropping out of the race; the consequences were too great.

Drop out?! This was a championship meet. A championship meet in my backyard with my friends and family screaming in the stands. In a flash of a moment I thought to myself, I can drop out and everyone will understand. They will understand I am crushed, that this wasn’t my day, and that losing my shoe was completely out of my control. Or I can fight! I can fight and do my best. And no matter what happens I know I will have tried my hardest.

That’s what I did. I continued on. I told myself to ignore my foot and to just focus on what I do best, focusing on those in front of me. For the next kilometre I kept myself within striking distance of the gold medal.

With 400m to go the pace picked up and I went with it. It was down to myself and Nicole (the other Canadian), the Columbian and Cory McGee, the American. Just behind Cory I felt the pace surge again with 300m to go. I have been practicing my kick all year, but I have not practiced my kick with only a half shoe on.

imageI passed Cory with about 250m to go and my shoe really started to fall off. And my the ball of my foot by my big toe felt like it was on fire; the intense burning had been building just like Heusden the year previous, but at least I knew it was coming!

I apparently limped in pretty badly down the last 80m. My physio team and teammates were worried that my injured calf and heel had finally given in. My right calf and heel were in fact were completely pain-free! I was limping because I found I had to get off my left foot as fast as possible with my shoe in its precarious position.

I did not join Team Canada and come to the Pan Am Games to compete. I came to win. While mild disappointed crept in when my shoe was knocked off it was wiped out by the strength, courage and awesome feeling standing on that podium as a bronze medal was draped around my neck.

Never again in my race lifetime will I stand on the podium at home during a Sasha1-1major games. Even if Toronto wins an Olympic bid I will be long into my retirement. I really cannot describe the emotion that went through me standing up there with Nicole; it was a rush, it was surreal, it was amazing, and I will treasure it forever.

2015-Pan Ams Track-30And it really was a Cinderella story, because my prince charming was there waiting for me in the stands. I am so thankful to have shared this moment with my friends and family. And I am so excited to see what comes next!