A javelin’s throw away from the Olympics

If this is what it means to throw like a girl, the line of boys waiting to take lessons from javelin thrower Liz Gleadle will stretch for miles.

By the time you read this, she may be on her way to the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

[UPDATE: UBC athletes Liz Gleadle, Inaki Gomez, Mike Mason and Curtis Moss have since been named to Canada's 2012 Olympic Track and Field team. UBC has more track and field athletes competing in the London Games than any other Canadian university.]

The 23 year-old UBC human kinetics student recently set a new personal best, and a new Canadian record, with a throw of 61.15 metres at the Harry Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver on June 10.

Now, the only thing that stands in the way of her Olympic dream is a top three finish at the Canadian Track and Field Trials taking place in Calgary June 27-30. If she qualifies, she will be the first Canadian female javelin thrower to compete in an Olympic Games since 1988.

Not bad for a girl who picked up the sport in her high school gym class.

Still, it hasn’t been all fun and games. Gleadle has worked hard in the last year to gain a competitive edge, moving to Lethbridge, Alberta and away from her family, in order to train.

“I gave up a lot of my social life. I moved from a tight-knit community where I had lots of friends to a place where I know nobody,” said Gleadle. “It’s been hard not to have the same support as you do when you’re at home.

“But at the same time, it had the biggest impact on my training. Instead of going out at night, you have a shower, go to bed and get enough sleep so you’re not too tired.”

While her training has certainly strengthened her body, it’s also helped to toughen up her mind. This is a young woman who sets goals and knows what she wants.

“I’d like to set a personal best and truly perform well,” said Gleadle in anticipation of her Olympic debut. “You always think this is really fantastic and you’re really excited, but it’s about more than that. Canada sends athletes to have a strong showing.”

If all goes according to plan, Gleadle will be joined by two other track athletes with ties to UBC.

International relations graduate Inaki Gomez hopes to qualify in the men’s 20 km race walk. Gomez, who is currently ranked number one in Canada, has represented the country in a number of international events, including the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.  This would be his first Olympic Games.

Also hoping for a berth on Team Canada is Olympic veteran, Mike Mason. A high jumper, Mason graduated from UBC with a degree in human kinetics. He is currently ranked number one in Canadian men’s high jump, and is expected to qualify with ease.

Like Gleadle, both Mason and Gomez need a top three placement in their respective sport in the Canadian Track and Field Trials taking place between June 27-30 to qualify for the London Olympics.

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