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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

The road to Tokyo 2021: Five years in the making

-Belle River native, Noelle Montcalm,

is training in hopes of earning a spot in the Olympics-

Noelle Montcalm is pictured being previously interviewed after arriving back in Windsor from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Montcalm is a 400-metre hurdler, currently training to earn a spot in what could be her second Olympics.

by Garrett Fodor

“I remember walking a lap of the track during my pre-race preparations – the excitement I felt when I walked out to the track prior to my first race, realizing this dream came true. Wearing the red maple leaf brings such pride. Knowing I get to represent a whole nation on an international stage, is a dream come true,” 33-year-old, Belle River native, Noelle Montcalm said, she is a 400-metre hurdler, currently training in hopes of earning a spot in what could be her second Olympics.

  For the local athlete, competing for her country was her dream. Like many young athletes growing up, Montcalm honed her craft in multiple sports, including soccer, volleyball, and track. And it was the latter that Montcalm really decided to focus on.

  She was first introduced to track at the age of 12, running the 60-metre and 100-metre hurdles at the time. As Montcalm is preparing to compete to earn a spot on Canada’s Olympic team, she remembers, like many across the country, being glued to the television and aspiring to be like the athletes she watched compete.

  “I recall the 2004 Olympics in Athens, watching Perdita Felicien in the 100-metre hurdles and at that time, I ran the 100 metre hurdles as well, so I really took to that event and looked up to those girls in that event,” Montcalm said. “She, unfortunately, had a mishap in her final of the hurdles and I just even looked up to her in that defeat in that moment, and really wanted to aspire to be that for the younger generation, as they were to me at that time.”

  Prior to being on the national team, Montcalm spent four-years at the University of Windsor. She graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. In that time, she earned 16 Canadian Interuniversity Sport medals and was named the Ontario University Athletics Most Outstanding Performer for four-straight years.

  It was also at the University of Windsor, where Montcalm forged a relationship with her Coach, Don Garrod, who she has been working with for over 10-years. Garrod, now retired, solely works with Montcalm and her former Lancer teammate and Olympian, Melissa Bishop-Nrigau.

  Montcalm runs in the 400-metre hurdles, which she competed in at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was there, where Montcalm was a member of Canada’s 4x400 metre relay team, which placed 4th, missing out on bronze by .55 milliseconds. Montcalm competed in the 400-metre hurdles, placing 18th. Since then, Montcalm has been training daily with her sights set on the finish line, earning a spot in Tokyo.

  “This last year or so, we have really had to be more flexible, whereas before, we would have a training plan set out for weeks at a time. Now, we don’t even really know what a week at a glance looks like,” Montcalm said, describing her training during the pandemic. “We have the end goal in place, but we have had to be okay with shifting the steps along the way, as the current climate of the pandemic is constantly changing. I’m fortunate, I have a full gym set up in my basement with a treadmill, bike, weights, so that has helped tremendously with just maintaining fitness.”

With the Olympics quickly approaching in three-months, and the Olympic trials in June, Montcalm is quickly ramping up her training. She noted that not having raced in the last 14 months has been challenging and she is currently in the planning process of getting to compete before the Olympic Trials, being held in Montreal from June 24-27.

  But amid safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympics, trials, and other events, will have no spectators, friends or family, which is a drastic change from the over 60,000 people cheering on Montcalm and others in 2016. But Montcalm admits, it is for the best and everyone’s safety in order to try to regain some normalcy.

  As Montcalm ramps up her training, she hopes to be one of several athletes to represent Canada from Windsor-Essex County, as there are currently as many as six potential Olympians to come from the region. Montcalm adds that it is such a surreal experience, having so many elite athletes coming from this region and representing the country on the world’s biggest stage. Montcalm is thankful for everyone who has supported her and helped her get to this step in her journey and she appreciates the years of community support.


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