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Track and Field

Middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu cuts season short due to injury

Middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu of Eganville, Ont., who placed second in the women's 800 metres at the Canadian track and field championships in July, has announced on Instagram she is shutting down her season.

2019 Canadian silver medallist's campaign hampered by small Achilles tear, minor hamstring issue

Canadian middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu’s season has been cut short by injuries, most recently by a small Achilles tear. The 2019 national silver medallist in the women’s 800 metres sat out last season to give birth to daughter Corinne. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images/File)

Middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, who placed second in the 800 metres at the Canadian track and field championships in July, has announced on Instagram she is ending her season early.

The 31-year-old of Eganville, Ont., who sat out the 2018 campaign to give birth to daughter Corinne, noted the changing structure of her body upon her return to competitive running led to several injuries, including a hamstring ailment and most recently a small Achilles tear.

"My fitness is there, but the body structure changes and makes it increasingly difficult to stay in one piece," wrote Bishop, a 2015 world silver medallist who finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

"Don't lose faith yet, I haven't. Patience will be my biggest test."

The University of Windsor graduate's season-best time of two minutes 1.10 seconds was recorded on June 7 at the Speed River Inferno meet in Guelph, Ont., where she narrowly missed the 2:00.60 qualifying standard for the world championships in September at Doha, Qatar.

In her most recent 800 race on Aug. 10, Bishop-Nriagu posted a winning time of 2:01.50 at the Ed Murphey Classic in Memphis, Tenn. She set the Canadian record of 1:57.01 in 2017.

Bishop-Nriagu opened her 2019 season on May 18 in the 1,500, setting a personal-best time of 4:09.36 in at the Johnny Loaring Classic at the University of Windsor Stadium.

Bishop-Nriagu was pleasantly surprised how quickly she recovered from pregnancy, though she had to work to keep weight on after Corinne was born.

"I lost it so fast nursing and training," she told Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press recently. "As a mom, your time is so focused on your child, sometimes feeding [yourself] and sleeping, those aren't my priorities anymore, and that's been the struggle, keeping my needs as an athlete a priority, but also Corinne's. I have to do both if I want to succeed in this career."

Bishop-Nriagu will now focus on recovery and returning to good health in a bid to clinch a spot on Canada's Olympic team for Tokyo next summer. Bishop-Nriagu has until next June 29 to reach the 1:59.50 qualifying standard in the 800.

Struggles in 1st year post-pregnancy

"It's very upsetting Melissa had to cut her season short," fellow Canadian runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, who has set a combined five national indoor/outdoor records this season, told CBC Sports. "No runner wants to finish their season that way.

"I think her 2019 season has been extremely impressive and I look forward to seeing what she does in 2020."

DeBues-Stafford recalled the struggles of two-time Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff of Victoria, who struggled to regain her form in the 1,500 after giving birth to son Theo in 2014.

She had to end her 2015 season early with a stress fracture in her left fibula, or calf bone, but rebounded in June 2016 to hit the Athletics Canada qualifying standard for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Stellingwerff placed 31st.

Her husband Trent, a sports physiologist, recently took to Twitter to reveal some data he had collected on the performance of elite female runners following pregnancy.

Bishop-Nriagu said she is ready to run fast again and reaching the podium in Tokyo is the goal.

"Fourth is something you never want to be in again, ever. It feels like a pain in your side that won't go away," she told Anson Henry of CBC Sports in August 2017.

"I don't have [an Olympic] medal. That's like the biggest box [unchecked] on my list of things to do in life."

WATCH | Melissa Bishop-Nriagu reflects on Olympic experience in Rio:

Thinking about her fourth-place finish in the women's 800 metres at the Rio Olympics still brings Canadian runner Melissa Bishop to tears. "It's like a pain in your side that won't go away," she says. 3:41

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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