Local hero to run last race in front of home crowd

By Rachel Hauraney

Olympic sprinting superstar Glenroy Gilbert is ready to put his running career behind himbut not until he flies like the wind one last time.

Gilbert, 32, is training for the 100 metres and 4 X 100 metres, to be run at the Francophonie Games in Ottawa, July 14-24.

“I’m excited that the Games… will take place in Ottawa-Hull,” he says.

“I haven’t competed in front of my home crowd for nearly 14 years,” says Gilbert, who’s also a spokesperson for the Games.

As always, he’s ready to run, but regardless of his performance, Gilbert says this will be his last race.

“At this point, there really isn’t anything I haven’t done in my sport. It’s time to move on,” he says.

Games official, Matthieu Ouellette, remembers Gilbert’s performance in previous years.

“He won the gold in the relay in Paris,” says Ouellette. “That was the second Francophonie Games (in 1994). But this year, he’ll have a chance to compete in Ottawa and hopefully a lot of people will turn out for the race. “His past accomplishments and his being from Ottawa are the two main reasons he will be an asset to our roster.”

Gilbert’s running career started off at the Pinecrest Public School track club. It was while playing soccer in a field behind Pinecrest Public School that the Olympic gold medallist got his big break.

He was in Grade 7 at the time, and his athletic talent stood out from that of his classmates as he ran back and forth across the field — at least for the school’s principal, Glenn Munro.

“(Munro) encouraged me to join the Ottawa Lions,” remembers Gilbert, who moved to Ottawa from Trinidad in 1973. “He even paid the $60 membership fee.”

Gilbert was inspired to make amateur sport competition a full-time job when he visited the track at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

He trained in Grade 8 at Pinecrest and in Grade 9 at Laurentian High School, running the 100 metres, the 4 X 100 metre relay, and the long and triple jumps.

He set records in the jumping events and was well on his way to achieving his first goal — representing Canada at the Olympics.

Gilbert joined the national track team in 1988 and ran at the Seoul Olympics that year, at the age of 19. He returned to the Olympics twice and competed as a member of the Canadian four-man bobsled team in the 1994 winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

The highlight of his career was winning the gold in the 4 X 100 metre relay in the 1996 Olympics.

“That was the second goal I set for myself – to win an Olympic medal,” he says.

But success hasn’t gone to his head.

Lions head coach Jim Slepica says Gilbert still takes time to encourage the club’s young athletes when he’s in the capital.

“He’s contributed a lot more to the club aside from just his obvious athletic talents,” says Slepica. “He takes the time to talk to high school students. He’s a great role model, not only because of his abilities, but because of his attitude.”

For now his focus is on the Games. After that he plans to finish his criminology degree at the University of Ottawa.

Gilbert says he’ll be happy to get out of the Canadian amateur sport circuit, despite his passion for running.

“Canada shows no support for amateur athletes and gives me no reason, other than a love of the game, to put my life on hold for my sport,” says Gilbert.

“When I’m done with running track, there’s no turning back,” he says.