EDMONTON -- Priscilla Lopes-Schliep admits she had some doubts while she was pregnant as to whether she could get back to her peak level of performance.
TORONTO -- Canadian hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, of Whitby, worked out with her team and coach Anthony McCleary on May 16 at the Toronto Track and Field Centre. Workouts range from five to six hours a day, five days a week. In September, Priscilla gave birth to her daughter, Nataliya, giving her less than ten months to prepare for Canada's Olympic trials in June. May 16, 2012
Tara Walton / Torstar
She has now silenced that doubt, both within herself and to any others who may have wondered the same.
Exactly nine months after giving birth to her first child, daughter Nataliya, the 29-year-old Whitby native claimed her first win of the season in the 100-metre hurdles Saturday in Edmonton at the National Track League's Donovan Bailey Invitational.
The win was most significant due to the fact she topped a star-studded field that included her chief rivals who will be vying for three Olympic berths later this month in Calgary.
"Especially to have the first win on Canadian soil is pretty awesome, after coming back from being pregnant and being exactly nine months after having her that day," said Lopes-Schliep Monday, back home in Toronto with her family. "I've just got a few things to work on for the next little bit here, but once that all clicks in, more or less I'll be back."
Lopes-Schliep won the race in a time of 12.76, her third best of the season, edging the lone American in the field, Nia Ali, by two-hundredths of a second. Edmonton's Angela Whyte was in third (12.83), Scarborough's Phylicia George fourth (12.85), followed by the Pickering duo of Nikkita Holder (12.88) and Perdita Felicien (12.94) in fifth and sixth respectively.
Those same five Canadians, along with heptathlete Jessica Zelinka of Calgary, will be racing next at the Canadian track-and-field trials in Calgary June 27-30, where the three Olympic spots will be determined.
"I feel confident as long as I run my race and do what I've been training to do, everything should come together," said Lopes-Schliep. "I've just got to worry about myself and nobody else because in hurdles, it's anything can happen any given day."
Nobody knows that more than Felicien, who eight years ago in Athens was favoured to win gold but stumbled on a hurdle in the final.
At the other end of the spectrum, with Felicien injured for the 2008 Games in Beijing, Lopes-Schliep shocked and thrilled the nation by winning bronze, Canada's first Olympic track-and-field medal since 1996.
Both now are excellent role models, which Lopes-Schliep said helps explain why Canada is currently so strong in the event.
"I guess just with the past history and the success that we've had and the desire to go over barriers and prove to the world that Canada is made of strength and courage and determination," she said in explanation of the excellence. "Having strong female role models definitely plays a key into that."
Given that the six Canadian female hurdlers have all bettered the Olympic A-standard of 12.96 this year, two things seem certain: three will leave Calgary disappointed, but the other three will head to London with medals on the mind.