Priscilla just getting started

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

When Priscilla Lopes-Schliep makes plans for Aug. 19, 2010, don't bet against them being a success.

A year to the day after she captured bronze at the Beijing Summer Olympics, the speedster from Whitby yesterday took another significant leap towards being the world's best woman hurdler.

With a lunging finish at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, the 26-year-old finished second to Jamaican Brigitte Foster-Hylton in the 100-metre hurdles at the world athletics championships.

"Every year, I feel stronger and stronger and build in confidence," the bubbly runner said yesterday in a conference call after being timed in 12.54 seconds, just .03 behind the winner. "There are bigger and better things I am expecting of myself. I can't wait to see what the future holds."

The present, as far as Canadian hurdlers are concerned, now clearly belongs to Lopes-Schliep who has surpassed her rival, Perdita Felicien, as the country's best.

The two certainly were going in opposite directions yesterday as Felicien, hampered by leg cramps at the worst possible time, plowed through Hurdles 2 and 3 to finish eighth and last.

A two-time medallist at the worlds (silver in 2007 and gold in '03), Felicien is still among the world's elite, but has settled into second-best among those wearing the maple leaf. Although it came with a valid excuse, yesterday's race was eerily reminiscent of the 2004 Olympics when she crashed to the track after botching the first hurdle in the final, a race she was heavily favoured to win.

Meanwhile, Lopes-Schliep keeps responding to new challenges. As deftly as she cleared the hurdles yesterday, there were obstacles off the track, as well. Incredibly, Lopes-Schliep was hauled into doping control some 10 minutes before the final.

"When they came up to me I was shocked," said Lopes-Schliep, who had to produce a urine sample before her race. "I just put it out of my head and did what I had to do. It was an emotional roller coaster with all the distractions, but I went out there and did Canada proud."

All indications heading into the final suggested Lopes-Schliep was sitting on a podium performance. She had won her preliminary heat Tuesday and followed with a victory in her semi-final earlier yesterday.

When reigning Olympic champion Dawn Harper of the U.S., joined Felicien in clipping hurdles early in the final, the prospects got that much better.

With Aug. 19 yielding a silver and a bronze at the biggest meets of the calendar the past two years, Lopes-Schliep isn't done yet. It's a little early to start hyping the 2012 Olympics, but London is clearly the target. Yesterday's effort was a 10th of a second quicker than what Lopes-Schliep ran in Beijing and all signs point to more being in the tank.

"She can do a lot more, I think she's going to surprise a lot of people over the (next couple) years," her long-time coach, Anthony McCleary, said yesterday. "There's another 2-10ths sitting there and we'll get that out some time soon."

For Felicien, the mishap is another crushing blow on the biggest stages of her sport. Given how long it took her to recover mentally from the debacle in Athens and the foot injury that kept her out of Beijing, you have to wonder how she will rebound from yesterday's mess.

The worst part for the soon- to-be 29-year-old is that she was steadily rounding into her pre-Athens form, but that was half a decade ago. This time, at least, for Felicien, there is no mystery to the failure. Her calves cramped up badly as she was on the start line yesterday, taking her out of the race before the gun even blasted.

Soon after it did, Lopes-Schliep was long gone, well on her way to climbing a podium that once had a spot reserved for her Canadian rival.


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