A third-place finish in the 100 m at the Canadian Olympic trials cemented Seyi Smith’s place on the 4x100 m relay team. Photo provided
By Anne Duggan
Name: SEYI SMITH
Event: 4x100 m
Club: OTTAWA LIONS
Previous Olympics: FIRST
A more disciplined approach to training, a fresh start in Calgary and a new coach were the ingredients to Seyi Smith’s rejuvenation, which has the Ottawa Lions sprinter poised for a spot on Canada’s 4x100-metre relay team for London 2012.
“You have to be able to stand on the line – the one in the Olympic stadium – and say that you have done everything in the best possible way to prepare,” highlights Smith, who qualified to be a relay team member with a third-place performance in the men’s 100 m at the June 27-30 Canadian trials in Calgary. His personal-best time of 10.22 seconds was only .07 out of first place.
National medals and personal records are a far cry from a disappointing 2011 season. The 25-year-old says there was a collection of things that he needed to improve, including all aspects of training and recovery, ranging from submitting to regular ice baths, eating the best foods, and moving to Calgary.
“Being made an alternate (for the 2011 world championships relay team in September) mixed with wanting to work on my long jump convinced me to move,” explains Smith, who started repeating one phrase over and over once training resumed after worlds. “I started saying to myself, ‘This day is going to be my Olympic final.’”
Smith feels the move to Calgary was a good one. Quin Sekulich is his new regular coach, taking over from the Lions’ Glenroy Gilbert, who still leads the national relay program. A former standout national sprinter and long jumper himself, Sekulich has 10 years of professional training experience in both disciplines.
Moving and landing quickly on his feet is a familiar skill to Smith. Born in Nigeria, Smith spent his early childhood in Senegal before his family moved to Ottawa when he was 10. He attended Brookfield High School for Grade 9 and 10 and trained with the Lions at that time.
The family’s next move was to Rome, Italy when his father got a job with the UN. Smith recalls that his parents managed to find him a track coach in Rome.
“It worked out pretty good once I had learned some Italian and he figured out some English,” laughs the first-time Olympian.
Now if he could just get rid of one bad habit picked up in Italy: an insatiable love of pasta and bread.
“You know that phrase about man not living on bread alone? Well, I can. I just need a little olive oil, salt and pepper and I am happy. I mean it.”
Before returning to Canadian soil, there were five years spent in yet another country, Britain, as he pursued a post-secondary education, along with track training. Smith now has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a masters in renewable energy technology but currently works at a Calgary gym since employers in his own industry aren’t interested in hiring part-time workers with heavy travel schedules.
But the main goal Smith carries at the moment is to bring Canadians a renewed appreciation for sprinting.
“If we run with the best and beat the best, we will bring back the respect and get Canada back on the sprinting map,” says Smith, who expects the Canadian relay team will make the finals in London.
“And once you are in the finals anything can happen,” he adds.
Fri., Aug. 10 – Round 1, 1:45 p.m. ET
Sat., Aug. 11 – Final, 3 p.m. ET