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EY’s Brittany Crew competing at Rio Olympics after winning Canadian shot put championship

With a “spin” throwing technique that seems almost like ballet when photographed, Brittany Crew heaves winning throw in Edmonton. -Claus Anderson

With a “spin” throwing technique that seems
almost like ballet when photographed, Brittany Crew heaves winning throw in Edmonton. -CLAUS ANDERSON

\ By Gary Webb-Proctor \

With a shot put throw of 18.06 metres at the finals of the 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships and Rio Selection Trials in Edmonton, Alberta on July 9, young East York athlete Brittany Crew easily won her event, set a new personal best and earned herself a place on the Canadian team competing in the Rio Olympics this month.

The throw, on her second of five heaves in the Senior Women finals of the 4 kg. shot put competition, was just a quarter of a metre short of the all-time Canadian record set by American athlete Julie Labonte in 2011. And demonstrating that it was no fluke, she achieved exactly the same distance again on her fifth throw.

Her winning distance was more than a metre-and-a-quarter better than the second-place finisher, Taryn Suttie, behind whom Ms. Crew had been ranked second going into the competition. Record holder Labonte finished third.

“I knew I had to put it out early to try to psych [Ms. Suttie] out. She was a little shaken I think,” Ms. Crew told East York Chronicle in a telephone interview after the competition and just prior to leaving on July 27 for a Brazil training camp to prepare for her Olympic debut, which happens on August 12.

Brittany Crew with proud coach Richard Parkinson. -COURTESY

Brittany Crew with proud coach Richard Parkinson. -COURTESY

Crew, 22 years old and the reigning Canadian Interuniversity Sports champion and CIS championship record holder in the event, is four years younger than Suttie, which in women’s shot put is a big disadvantage.

Most female shot putters hit their prime in their late 20s, she explained, making her triumph over an older field at the championship all the more remarkable. What’s more, she did it after suffering a couple of training injuries over the past 18 months, as detailed in our May 2015 article about her Canadian university laurels and a follow-up in July 2015 after she came third at the World University Games, where she opted to compete instead of entering the Canadian finals or trying out for the 2015 Pan Am team.

With a throw last July of 17.27 metres, she had broken her previous personal best by half a metre and came within a half-metre of the Olympic standard of 17.75 metres —which she subsequently bested with a 17.84 metres distance earlier this year while sweeping the CIS finals in March.

(Athletes in various events have to meet a minimum standard in order to qualify to appear in the Olympics. In the Senior Women Discus throw, for example, in which Crew also competed in Edmonton, none of the competitors has as yet hit the Olympic mark, so Canada is not represented in that event at this year’s Olympics.)

At the Edmonton competition last month she threw a comparatively unspectacular 16.3 metres on her first attempt, but on her second toss she finally reached the hitherto elusive 18 metres mark and shattered her own previous personal best of 17.84.

Crew, who grew up in East York, attending R.H. McGregor Elementary School for Grades 1 to 5 and Cosburn Middle School for Grades 6 to 8, told us that she has modest expectations for her Olympic debut, for which winning throws are historically in the 20-metre range.

Noting that in addition to being six years younger than the average age for an Olympic women’s shot putter, she is also, at 5’10” in height, a good three inches shorter than the average competitor at that level, she said her goal is to make the final round of twelve throwers.

“This is really just the start for me, so my goal this time is just to make the Top 12 and be in the finals. I’ll be ecstatic if I can just do that,” she said.

She also employs a throwing technique, called the “spin”, which most world class athletes have eschewed in favour of one known as “glide.” She said she “started off as a glider and sort of fluked into trying the spin. For my build and height, it just seems to work better.”

Crew said her coach, Richard Parkinson, whom she credits for much of her success, and who will also be in Rio after being named coach for all the Canadian female throwing events athletes, will have her practising throwing according to the unusual schedule for the Rio competition.

“The first heats are in the morning on the 12th but the final isn’t until the evening and a lot of people may not be used to throwing at night or after such a long wait following the preliminary,” she noted. She expects to be ready to face that if she’s able to get through to the medal round, she added.

If she does make the medal round all bets are off, since “anything can happen” under the pressure of the moment, she allows.

And with the steady increases in distance that she has achieved over the past 15 months —adding over 1¼ metres in that short time— who knows what other surprises this remarkable young woman may yet have in store.

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