It's all in the family for the Sharpes

Track success filters down from mom and dad to daughters

PICKERING -- If genetics account for anything, there is no way to predict the unlimited potential of the Sharpe twins.

The offspring of a couple of national level athletes, Sommer and Taylor are beginning to make a name for themselves on the track after returning home with medals from the OFSAA high school provincial track-and-field championships in Sudbury. That may not come as much of a surprise, considering their dad, Tony, won a bronze medal for Canada at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as a member of the men's 4x100m relay team, and their mom, Colene, represented Canada at the international level as well.

Now the parents are sharing their knowledge and experience with their daughters at the Speed Academy.

"It does pose its challenges," chuckles Tony of the dynamic of being an Olympian who coaches his own kids. "A lot of times they treat you as dad and don't necessarily react to your instructions.

"I've had Taylor say, 'No, I'm not doing that'. And I said, 'OK, I have another 20 kids here and I don't have time to take you on'. I'm very lenient with them in terms of the work. My daughters are very social. So, for them, it's all about who is going to be at practice versus what is going to actually happen when they get there."

Colene, a former sprinter who spends a lot of time coaching the girls in the club, says initially her daughters had little interest in track, and were brought to practice just to get out of the house.

"They were pests initially," she recalls. "We told the other kids, 'Don't talk to the Sharpe kids because they are distracting'.

"It's a really tough dynamic to coach your own kids. It's extremely difficult because you can only push so far and they only listen to you so much."

Now that the twins are putting more into the training sessions, they are seeing the results. The message is getting through.

Taylor won gold in the 400m, ran the anchor leg of the gold medal-winning 4x100m relay team at St. Mary, and earned bronze in the 200m. She also qualified for the 100m, but passed on the event because it would have been too busy.

She says she has benefitted from having an Olympic medallist coach her, even if it's dad.

"I think it's pretty awesome," says the 14-year-old Grade 9 student. "People come from all over to be trained by my dad and I have him everyday. It's awesome to be able to say that my dad won a bronze medal at the Olympics. I know a lot of people can't say that. He's also a role model for me."

Sommer, who ran the second leg of the relay team that won gold, echoes those same sentiments.

"I like my dad being the coach because even when I go home he tells me what I can improve on," she says.

As for the level her dad reached, "We're kind of used to it. Other people usually take it as more of a big deal than we do. I still think it's pretty cool. I admire him. I think what he did was amazing and I look up to him for that."

Tony says his approach with his daughters is the same with any of the other athletes in the stable -- that they have to have fun and like what they are doing.

"I don't think it's about trying to reach any standards that I have achieved," he says.

Both girls are hoping to pursue athletics and academics down the road by obtaining scholarships to an NCAA school. Their brother, Mitchell, who is a year older, is a premiere soccer player, who has some potential in track but shies away from the sport at this point, says Colene.

Proud parents, with reason to be.

Tony Sharpe helps score scholarships for track and field stars

tony sharpe

Sharpe, the former Canadian Olympian, runs the Speed Academy, a developmental track and field club in Pickering, which has helped dozens of athletes get NCAA scholarships.

The club was founded in 2006 and Sharpe left his corporate account manager’s job at Bell to track athletes full-time a few years later.

“I’m a full-time coach, you know, not something people do often in Canada,” says Sharpe, 59, adding about 50 Speed Academy athletes have received scholarships.