Gilbert relays great advice

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

Success requires a hunger, a medal isn't guaranteed to make you rich, and the Canadian team looks good on paper.

That's the assessment of Olympic gold medallist Glenroy Gilbert, chatting yesterday in the pouring rain at the Varsity Centre, where the Canadian track and field championships are on until Sunday.

Back in 1996, Gilbert was one of the less famous members of the men's 4x100-metre relay team that won Olympic gold in Atlanta. While his teammates have moved on to other ventures, Gilbert has become one of the more involved ex-athletes still in sport, working for Athletics Canada as the national relay and sprint program's lead coach.

How have times changed since those glory days?

"When we did it, we didn't have a whole lot," reflected Gilbert. "We wanted to compete with the U.S. We believed we could be as good or as better than the U.S. We used them as our gauge. (Now) there's a little more funding and a plan to help athletes get to the next level than when I was competing."

Gilbert and his peers had a hunger to win, he said, that permeated every aspect of their lives. Nowadays, athletes are better supported financially, medically, and with coaching and facilities, yet Gilbert adheres to that notion of hunger being necessary to success.

"Everybody wants to do well, but what's going to separate you from the next guy who wants to win?" he asked. "It has been a challenge, because I feel in some cases things kind of come a little easier for athletes now."

After making the Olympic final in Beijing last summer, Gilbert said the 4x100-metre squad he coaches ran tentatively and finished sixth. He felt they could have gone faster.

"I think they didn't want to mess up," Gilbert said. "They were very guarded and you saw that in the final time. While we celebrate the fact that they made the final, they've got to start making a real assertive push towards getting on the podium."

The racing this weekend serves as the selection trials for the Canadian team that will travel to Berlin, Germany to compete in the world championships Aug. 15 to 23.

Canada's best world championship performance was in 1995 at Gothenburg, Sweden, where it won four medals -- two gold, one silver and one bronze. Donovan Bailey took gold in the 100 metres, Bruny Surin silver, the 4x100m men's relay (including Gilbert) won gold, and Mike Smith scored bronze in the decathlon.

Is the team getting close to having such depth again? Podium threats include hurdlers Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. There's also shotputter Dylan Armstrong and 800-metre runner Gary Reed, both of whom placed fourth in Beijing. The team looks good on paper, Gilbert allowed.

"But you know, there are still standards that have to be made, people have to perform this weekend," he said. "It's very exciting. I love to see good performances when athletes have persevered. Believe it or not, I get more nervous as a coach than as an athlete, probably because I have no control any more."

Nervous, but also there to share with the next generation. Tips such as how to handle injury, pre-race pressure, and where to pass the baton based on wind conditions.

"I just want the athletes I deal with to walk away feeling quite positive about the whole thing," Gilbert said. "You can have an Olympic medal and work 9-to-5 to survive. You have to be doing it for other reasons than to win a medal and be rich."


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