Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coolsaet gets Olympic standard

By Mihira Lakshman

Hamilton’s Reid Coolsaet, in his first attempt at the Olympic standard, achieved his target on Sunday, at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Coolsaet was the top Canadian —10th overall — in 2:11:22, achieving the Canadian Olympic standard for the 2012 London Games.

Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara won his third consecutive STWM title completing the 42.195-kilometre course in 2:07:57, smashing his previous record of 2:08:32, set in 2009. Jafred Chirchir was second in 2:08:09 and Daniel Rono, who won the 2006 event, was third in 2:08:14 - completing the Kenyan sweep of the men’s podium. Kenyan runners have won the STWM race for the past five years.

The top four men were all under Mungara’s 2009 record.

Fellow Kenyan Sharon Cherop won the women’s race in another record time, crossing the line in 2:22:42 in a dramatic sprint finish. She edged second-place Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia, who was 2:22:44. Ethiopia’s Merima Mohammed finished third in 2:23:06. Vancouver’s Katherine Moore was the top Canadian woman in 2:47:41.

Both Mungara and Cherop recorded the fastest ever men’s and women’s marathons on Canadian soil.

But some of the loudest cheers were for Coolsaet, who battled injury for most of 2008, missing the Beijing Olympics. In 2009, he only had a few months of proper marathon training before winning the nationals in Ottawa, and earning a 25th-place finish at the Berlin world championships in 2:16:53.

With a full 12 months of marathon mileage under his belt leading up to the Scotiabank race, Coolsaet felt confident enough to go out in 65 minutes for the first half, giving himself a shot at Jerome Drayton’s Canadian record of 2:10:09, which has stood since 1975.

“[It] was still within reach at halfway. But that was a little tough. I tried to rally to stay on Olympic standard, and I had to push those last 2K to make sure I got under,” Coolsaet said.

“With 1K to go, I looked at my watch, and thought, ‘I got to buckle down here.’”

Coolsaet maintained a steady pace, with a slightly positive split (65:10 first half, then 66:13), smiling uncontrollably over the final 200m when he know he was going to get the Olympic Standard. It was also the fastest marathon in Canada — by a Canadian — eclipsing Peter Fonseca’s 2:11:34 from 1995 in Toronto.

Fonseca, now an Ontario cabinet minister, was on hand to congratulate Coolsaet.

Teammate Eric Gillis also set a personal best in 2:12:08, despite nursing a sore knee and running most of the second half alone.

“It felt surprisingly good,” Gillis said. “Around 38K, I was starting to hurt. But instead of slowing down, I tried to pick it up a bit, and it worked. I was able to find another gear.”

Emotions were running high for Dave Scott-Thomas, who coaches both Coolsaet and Gillis at the Speed River Track and Field Club in Guelph, Ont.

“Honestly, at the end, I was crying,” Scott-Thomas said. “It’s a powerful connection you have. It’s not just training stuff - it’s life. I mean, my youngest daughter is named after [Reid].”

“This wasn’t mind blowing range. This is what we thought they should run. I’m very happy, but not surprised,” he added.
Race director Alan Brookes said he couldn’t pick just one favourite moment on a day where two Canadian all-comers records fell, and a local runner made the Olympic standard.

“Over the past few years, we’ve come to believe we could have a marathon in Toronto that is every bit as could as a marathon in Chicago, Los Angeles, Rome or Amsterdam,” Brookes said.

About 20,000 runners took part in marathon, half marathon and 5K races, raising more than $2.5 million for 115 local charities.