Elizabeth “Liz” Gleadle throws like a girl, and wins at it.
The Canadian athlete heads into her second Olympics at Rio 2016 already having etched her name in the modern history books. The summer games of London 2012 marked the first time a Canadian woman competed in the javelin throw since 1988 and first time one qualified for the finals since 1968; Gleadle finished 12th overall.
The 27-year old Vancouver-born and based track and field athlete got her start as a kid enrolled in as many sports as possible – with credit to her parents. Before avidly pursing track and field she was a pitcher for the Vancouver Wildcats Rep fastball team which probably got her throwing arm warmed up. It was grade 8 gym class at Kitsilano Secondary School where Liz threw her first javelin, a couple years later garnered 3Rd at the BC High School Championships and wins at both the BC and Canadian Youth Championships.
After joining the Vancouver Thunderbirds Track & Field Club and concentrating on javelin the rest is in the record books: breaking the Canadian Youth Record and then setting the NAIA record twice during university. In the years since the competitor battled for top spot with impressive records, wins and even an injury. More recently, namely last year, Gleadle solidified her name as the best in the world by breaking her own Canadian record and winning the Golden Grand Prix meet in Japan. That was followed up by winning the Canadian Track & Field Championship and gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Next big throw: Rio!
What drew you to track and field and the javelin throw specifically?
I’m a social and outgoing person, but I realized my inner control freak loved individual sports. Track is wonderful because I get to be a part of a team, but athletic performance is more in my control. Javelin has always just felt right to me – there nothing more gratifying or cathartic than chucking a spear as far as possible.
How did you balance studying kinesiology at UBC and being a competitive athlete?
It was hard; my athletics took priority, and my grades reflected it. I averaged 72-75% each semester, and it took me 7 years to graduate because I took time off for a more intensive training program to make the 2012 Olympic team. My last semester I was injured, so I could fully commit myself to studying… and my average flew up to 85%! Being a varsity athlete is a huge commitment.
How were you able to bounce back after a back injury and missing the 2013 competitive season?
I think it helps that I truly had no expectations… I had just started throwing again after a year off, and I didn’t realize what an impact being properly aligned with have on my power output. Having an amazing support system with my family, coach, and physiotherapists was a big part of feeling confident and ready to compete again. I’ve only since November 2015 been able to do heavy upper body lifts again, so it’s been a slow, but worthwhile process!
How do you channel your momentum going into the 2016 Rio Olympics?
Try to start as consistent as possible in training and routines. Momentum for me comes from being healthy, and feeling like my practices up to the meet are going in the right direction.
What is your goal as a professional athlete?
Olympic Champion, World Champion, and eventually, the World Record. Go big, or go home.
What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring Canadian athletes?
Make every rep count, and practice with intention. Dream big, but have a plan for how you’re going to accomplish your goals… and enjoy the journey :)
Photo courtesy Canadian Olympic Committee
Interview by Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch