Priscilla Lopes-Schliep has cleared her last hurdle and is moving on, having given everything she has to the sport.
A young family and lack of a winter training facility where she resides contributed to Lopes-Schliep’s decision to hang up her track spikes and call it a career.
One of Canada’s most celebrated hurdlers and bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Lopes-Schliep announced her retirement Thursday in Edmonton on the eve of the TrackTown Classic taking place Friday at Foote Field.
“I’m glad I was able to make the decision and not have the decision made for me by injury, or something like that, ” Lopes-Schliep, 33, said. “If I had done this a couple of years ago, it probably would have been a lot harder, because I still wanted to make the comeback.
“But I wouldn’t trade having my two girls. I think real life would be so boring without them, just the things they say and do, and it gives me a whole other sense of joy.”
A product of Scarborough, Ont., Lopes-Schliep now resides in Nebraska. She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and won the 60-metre hurdles title at the 2004 NCAA indoor championships.
Lopes-Schliep went on to win the first Canadian medal in track and field in 12 years with her third-place finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. By claiming bronze, she also became the first Canadian female to medal since 1992.
“I wanted it and I felt like I deserved it, ” Lopes-Schliep said of her Olympic medal. “I raced against all those girls and competed with them, so I knew that it was anybody’s day. I was able to go out there and know that I worked hard and I deserved this. I stumbled out of the blocks, a lot of people don’t realize that, I was the last person out of the blocks. Then I had to dig and work my way back into that race.
“I just tightened up and started coming over each hurdle quicker, harder and faster and it came down to the dip (at the wire). You never know what’s going to happen, that’s hurdles, it’s so unpredictable and that’s what’s made it so enjoyable to go out there and compete and know that you have to be on point.”
Lopes-Schliep’s unexpected medal made her an overnight sensation in Canada. She went on to claim silver at the World Championships in Berlin the following year.
In 2010, Lopes-Schliep won bronze in the 60-metre hurdles at the World Indoor Championships then claimed the No. 1 world ranking in the 100-metre hurdles, winning 12 consecutive races and clinching the Diamond League overall title.
“The highlight of her career, for me, was Beijing, ” said Lopes-Schliep’s long-time coach Anthony McCleary. “A month out from the games, the training was more aggressive and the times were unbelievable. For me, that was the time that I realized something was going to happen and the drive she had really pushed her to that point. Practice was amazing, going through the camps and all that. That was the most pleasing part and that will live with me for a long time.”
In the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Lopes-Schliep was considered a strong medal contender. She resumed training shortly after giving birth to her first child and posted the fastest 100-metre hurdle time by a Canadian that year.