Whenever Canada’s rival track divas — Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Perdita Felicien — put their game faces on, Anthony McCleary knows enough to seek shelter.
“I don’t know if it’s personal, I mean it’s women,” said McCleary, Lopes-Schliep’s coach, of the sometimes tense, on-track relationship between the two hurdlers on Friday. “You don’t get involved, you don’t get in between them. You just stand back and watch it play out.
“It’s like when your mother-in-law and your wife go at it, you just sit back and don’t say anything.”
Late Saturday afternoon, for the 31st time, Felicien and Lopes-Schliep will line up against each other — this time at the 2010 Canadian track and field championships at the Varsity Centre — with another year of bragging rights and possibly a Canadian or world record on the line.
While Lopes-Schliep won bronze in the 100-metres hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Felicien has never lost a Canadian championship to her Whitby opponent. Felicien, from nearby Pickering, is also the owner of both the meet record (12.60) and Canadian (12.46) best-ever time.
Of course, they used to be best friends — living in nearby neighbourhoods, having trained together, too. But they grew apart after Felicien accepted a full scholarship to the University of Illinois, where she dominated NCAA opponents, and eventually shocked all comers with a gold medal at the 2003 world championships in Paris.
But Lopes-Schliep, at 27, two years younger than Felicien, caught up and passed her former pal in Beijing, copping a bronze medal. She currently is ranked third in the world, Felicien fourth.
“Now Priscilla’s on top and she likes it there,” McCleary continued. “She doesn’t want to give anybody anything. They’re both like that. They’ve been going at it for a while. ‘I want to beat you every time,’ stuff. So you never know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of thinking going on when they’re out there.”
As for Saturday’s showdown, McCleary says no matter what happens, somebody’s going to be steamed.
“When it comes to the Canadian championship, both of them want the title and somebody’s got to lose,” he said. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
CBC will broadcast the race live at around 5:50 p.m. McCleary expects both to clock fast, if not record, times.