ARTICLE OF THE DAY: Olympic debut a bittersweet moment for Canadian hurdler Phylicia George
When life was too much, Phylicia George found solace on the track, in the simple motion of putting one foot in front of the other.
The sport that has brought her to the London Olympics was also her means of escape two summers ago when she lost her mom Glenna to cancer.
The 24-year-old from Markham, Ont., will make her Olympic debut Monday in the 100-metre heats — and George knows it will be a bittersweet moment. Her best friend and No. 1 supporter won’t be there to see it.
“I’ll just be thinking of the things she would say to me,” George said. “I just like to think of the fact she’s watching over me and guides me around the track.”
George was in her junior year at the University of Connecticut in 2009 when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent much of that summer accompanying her mom to chemotherapy sessions and it seemed her mom had turned a corner.
But the cancer returned in her daughter’s senior year, and she died at the age of 50, just an hour after George arrived home from a frantic 12-hour drive from Storrs, Conn. It was four days before her university graduation.
George returned to Connecticut, to the routine she knew best — school and track.
“I really used track after the fact to help with the grieving process,” she said. “I think maybe it was unrealistic of me to think I was going to run fast, but I really needed to be on the track just for that sense of normalcy, just to have my mind off of what happened.”
Clinching her spot on Canada’s Olympic team at the trials last month in Calgary brought overwhelming joy, and some sadness. She tweeted about how much she wished her mom was there to see it.
She posted on Twitter recently: “Just took a nap and had an amazing dream about my mom. Now I wish I hadn’t set my alarm. Until next time…”
George’s mom was her No. 1 supporter and her best friend. She burned through calling cards while away at Connecticut calling her mom daily.
“I would leave a class and just call her, ‘Hey, this is what happened in class.’ I spoke to her before every track meet, after every track meet,” George said