CBC Sports

Olympics2012Sponsorship is key to track success

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 | 08:37 PM

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Canadian hurdler Phylicia George, far left, says that being able to focus on training full-time helps her keep pace with the competition. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images) Canadian hurdler Phylicia George, far left, says that being able to focus on training full-time helps her keep pace with the competition. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

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I didn't really consider myself a professional athlete until Nike began sponsoring me. In track and field, other than the Olympics, being sponsored by a big shoe company is one of the biggest things athletes look forward to. It's like the equivalent of being drafted into the NBA or NHL. You've arrived.
I didn't really consider myself a professional athlete until Nike began sponsoring me. In track and field, other than the Olympics, being sponsored by a big shoe company is one of the biggest things athletes look forward to. It's like the equivalent of being drafted into the NBA or NHL. You've arrived. And in my opinion I feel like I got drafted by the Miami Heat.

I remember looking at professional Nike athletes with great envy. They would always come to the track and competitions looking so well put together: the brightest t-shirts, fly sneakers, funky tights... you couldn't help but stare. One of my personal mantras is "Look good , feel good. Feel good, run fast." I consider every time I step out on the track to be a performance, much like a dancer at a dance recital. I have all eyes on me, from my warmup right to the end of my race.

We all know what it's like to get all dressed up and look in the mirror one last time before leaving the house, thinking to yourself, "Man, I look good." Your confidence is at an all-time high. I'm able to strictly focus on my task at hand.

I consider myself truly blessed to have the opportunity to represent such a great company. Many athletes struggle for many years to get a shoe sponsorship, despite running relatively fast. I'm grateful that Nike recognized my potential. I am able to do what I love as my job.

The sport of track and field deals with hundredths and thousandths of a second. With such small increments of time being the difference between first and fourth place, everything single thing counts. I truly believe that, to be a world class track athlete, track has to be your full-time job. It's not impossible, but it's very difficult to try to balance working a part-time job with the long hours needed to practice. Think about an athlete practicing for five hours and then rushing to a five-hour shift at work while your competition heads home for much-needed rest and recovery. They'll be better prepared for practice the next day with fresh legs, in comparison to the athlete who was on her feet all day.

The support that we receive from shoe companies, Canada and fundraising organizations plays an integral role in our success by allowing us to focus all of our energy on training. I am now in an even better position to focus on my main goal of winning a medal at the Olympics.

The perks of being a professional athlete don't end at getting all your gear provided for you. Since signing with Nike I have had the opportunity to meet many interesting people and attend lots of fun events. For the most part, the Nike events that I attend have me as a special guest speaker.

I can recall my first Nike event that I did with veterens Simon Whitfield and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. I remember sitting on stage with them in awe of how they commanded the audience's attention and the confidence they portrayed. I was so nervous. My heart had all but leapt right out of my chest.

However, I'm getting a little better with each public speaking engagement. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Nike store in the Toronto Eaton Center. My audience was a group of very brave souls, the Nike Running Club, who are currently prepping to run the Sporting Life 10K.

I have the utmost respect for anyone willing to even try running those long distances. My fast-twitch muscles and I consider anything over 400 metres extremely long. The few long runs (about 30 minutes) I've been on have taught me that I definitely chose the right track event. The endurance and willpower needed to run a 10K is impressive.

I hope I provided some insightful words for them as they continue to train towards their goal. I was very worried going to this event because I was the only guest speaker: no more veterans shadows to hide behind. Surprisingly, I was very comfortable speaking in front of them. It was almost like talking to a group of friends.

I guess experience really is the best teacher.  Hopefully, I become better and better as my career progresses.

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