Canuck gals shine

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

It's hard to set the track on fire when the rain is soaking everything in sight.

But Canadian track stars Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien did turn on the heat as best they could in the 100-metre hurdles competition last night at the Festival of Excellence, in front of a near sell-out crowd of 5,835 at Varsity Stadium.

The two Toronto-area athletes finished 1-2 on a cool and rainy night.

Lopes-Schliep, the bronze medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won last night's event in 12.86, after turning on the jets late in the race while Felicien, the 2003 world champion in the event, finished just a couple of hundredths of seconds behind in 12.88. Damu Cherry of the U.S., who holds the second-fastest time in the world this year (12.69) finished third in 13.01.

And while neither time posted by the Canadians last night was anything to write home about, the fact that they put together a solid performance under less-than-ideal conditions shows that they both could be a factor at the IAAF world championships, Aug. 15-23, in Berlin.

"There's three spots on the podium in Berlin and we can have 1-2-3 for Canada," said Felicien, throwing Edmonton's Angela Whyte into the mix. "We're the three musketeers, absolutely."

White, who has run a 13.02 this season, would be a long shot to make a final in the Berlin, but Lopes-Schliep is certainly a favourite to win a medal in Berlin and Felicien, who missed the Beijing Olympics because of a leg injury, is rounding back into form.

Both undoubtedly would have run better times last night if it was dry and warmer.

Lopes-Schliep, 26, is proving that she isn't a flash in the pan, having recorded the fastest 100-metre hurdles time this season, a 12.52, in Doha, which is also a personal best and just 6/100ths of a second off Felicien's Canadian record.

She and Felicien are bound to push each other in the years to come, even if they don't train together or even speak much, as was the case again last night following the race.

Lopes-Schliep used her strength to stay ahead of her national team teammate.

"I had a good start," the Whitby native said. "I buckled at the end a little bit so I had to fight to the finish line. You never know what's going to happen in the hurdles. But rain, sunshine, no matter what happens, you have to push through, you have to perform, and that's what I did today."

Both Lopes Schliep and Felicien were pumped by the full house last night and are hoping that the event continues next season and the big crowd -- drawn by the appearance of 2008 triple gold medallist Usain Bolt of Jamaica -- returns, although that could be wishful thinking.

"I've never run here as a professional, and the truth is, when I first walked up here on Bloor, it reminded me the World League in Berlin," said Felicien, who scanned the crowd for her mother after the race. "So there is a market for it. I love Usain, and I'm thankful to him that he won all those medals last year (in Beijing) and that we have an event like this (because of him), but I think the big message is sustainable and getting an event out here every single year."


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