Road To The Olympic Games

Canada's Stellingwerff, Sifuentes, Brannen London-bound in 1,500m

Hilary Stellingwerff, Nicole Sifuentes and Nate Brannen officially added their names to Canada's Olympic track and field team for London.
Hilary Stellingwerff was named to Canada's Olympic track and field team for London on Friday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

For Hilary Stellingwerff, Friday was the easy part.

One hundred per cent healthy and with the Olympic standard already in her back pocket, Stellingwerff only needed a finish top-three in the women's 1,500-metre race at the Canadian Olympic track and field trials to cement her spot on Canada's team for London.

Stellingwerff raced to a silver medal in the 1,500 Friday at Foothills Athletic Park, and officially added her name to the squad along with fellow 1,500-metre runners Nicole Sifuentes and Nate Brannen.

The race was a walk in the park for the 30-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., compared to her Diamond League performance last month in Rome, where she suffered a bout of food poisoning from something she ate in Morocco two nights before her race, then laid down the fastest 1,500 metres of her life — four minutes 5.08 seconds — beating the Olympic A-plus standard by almost a second.

"I was just so sick the two days leading in, even the day of," she said. "I felt horrible in the warmup, my manager Kris [Mychasiw] told me to just go for it, and I said, 'I don't even think I can start."'

She'd only eaten a bit of rice and bread in the hours before the race, and had lost close to five pounds on her tiny five-foot-three, 106-pound frame. Mychasiw, her husband Trent Stellingwerff and coach Dave Scott-Thomas spent race day trying to boost her confidence.

"They were just trying to feed me as much positive vibes, and telling me to be tough too," Stellingwerff said. "You've got to go to battle and forget all the 'poor me' stuff and just say: I came here to do something, I've got to get it done.

"And my husband told me, 'You don't run with your stomach, you run with your legs."'

Mychasiw, the only one of the three in Rome, eventually convinced Stellingwerff to step up to the start line.

"And I'm glad he did. He said, 'Just drop out if you don't feel good.' And I just started feeling all right as each lap went on, and the racing mentality kicked in and with 300 [metres] to go, I was like, 'I'm on pace, I've got to go,' and I started kicking and got the time.

"And then I lost it all after the race," said Stellingwerff, who vomited shortly after crossing the finish line.

Qualifying standard

Battling windy conditions Friday, Malindi Elmore of Kelowna, B.C., won the women's 1,500 metres in 4:13.94, passing Stellingwerff down the home stretch. Elmore hasn't achieved the qualifying standard for London.

Stellingwerff, with family members clad in yellow "Run Hilary Run" T-shirts cheering her on, ran 4:13.94 seconds, while Sifuentes, from Winnipeg, crossed third in 4:14.06.

Brannen, from Cambridge, Ont., won the men's 1,500 metres in 3:49.22 to cement his spot for London, having already run the qualifying standard.

Trent Stellingwerff, a sports physiologist and nutritionist, was about to give a speech at a sports science conference in San Francisco when his wife was racing.

"I was watching Twitter like crazy. I wanted to jump up and down for joy when I first saw it, but it was in a kind of a public forum so I had to wait until I was done speaking. It was exciting," said Trent Stellingwerff, who will be working with the Canadian team in London. "She's a pretty determined woman.

"Even sick, I thought maybe she'd still have a shot at 4:05, but if you don't get on the line you'll have a zero per cent shot."

Brannen, meanwhile, hopes for redemption in London after disappointment at the 2008 Beijing Games, where the pressure led to a nasty bout of insomnia.

After a decent race in the heats, he and his coach and agent starting thinking about the final and possibly a medal.

"But I literally didn't sleep one bit for two nights straight," said the 29-year-old. "I was thinking, 'I need to fall asleep, I need to calm myself down,' it's that fight or flight mode you're in, I was just in the fight, and getting more frustrated the longer it took.

"And then the sun starts coming up, it was sheer shades so the sun came right in, no AC and you're in Beijing in the humidity. So I sat there sweating, sun coming in at 6 a.m. Overall a bad experience those two days. The Games themselves were amazing, I just completely psyched myself out."

Brannen ran a career-best 3:34.22 to achieve the A-plus qualifying standard in Hengelo, Netherlands in May.

He'll be Canada's only runner in the men's 1,500 in London.