|Perdita Felicien (left) is hugged by rival Priscilla Lopes-Schliep after winning the 100 metre hurdles. Right, Dylan Armstrong dominated the shot put competition.
In a city where track meets are more like extended family picnics, 4,000 turned out for Saturday night’s official stare-down and ultimate showdown between hurdle divas, Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep at Varsity Centre.
They did not disappoint. In fact, as Felicien drove across the finish line of the women’s 100-metres hurdles final, she parked herself emotionally, not knowing whether to celebrate or bury her head.
It was that close — just 3-100ths of a second difference — but the result was the same as it’s always been for Pickering’s Felicien, who won the Canadian title for the ninth time. Though ranked third in the world, one place ahead of Felicien, Lopes-Schliep has never been more than a bridesmaid at the nationals.
Felicien, who covered the 100 in 12.72 seconds, trailed through the first four hurdles, but drew even around 60 metres. Lopes-Schliep was a bit off-kilter at that point, having run down a bar.
Felicien took the lead with about three hurdles left to nail the victory in a race she considered more important than any international money events she has run in this year.
“I take a lot of pride running at home. You don’t get a lot of opportunities,” she said. “And when you get ‘P’ versus ‘P’ ... you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Felicien, who recently moved to Atlanta to train under Loren Seagrave, admits the pre-race hype stoked her.
“This week has probably been the most stressful — not a bad stress — but the most affected I’ve been,” she said. “It’s kind of like performing at the Olympics or World Games. I kind of felt that here, because a lot was expected of me.”
Felicien, annoyed by what she considered too long a wait at the starting line, said she “felt out-of-sorts the first few hurdles. But you know me, I’m the comeback kid and it paid off.”
Lopes-Schliep, a bronze-medallist at the 2010 Olympics in Beijing, was naturally disappointed with the outcome, though her 12.75 time was respectable.
“It was a close one. I had a really good start but I hit a hurdle hard in the middle,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen in a race. You have to clear all 10 hurdles and today was her day.”
Lopes-Schliep said the two remained cordial before and after the race — there were no pysche-you-out nonsense.
“It was kind of like: ‘Hey, how you feeling? What spikes are you running today?’”
And after the race?
“We congratulated each other, for a brief moment.”
Calgary’s Angela Whyte, Canada’s other world-class women’s hurdler, finished third in 13 seconds flat.