Oshawa’s Mariam Abdul-Rashid on fast track to Olympics

Eastdale student has won eight OFSAA gold medals in three years

OSHAWA -- Sometimes you learn more about an athlete with how she handles defeat more so than victory, even if such instances are extremely rare.

That would certainly be the case with Oshawa’s Mariam Abdul-Rashid, who’s near-impeccable track-and-field career at Eastdale Collegiate has seen her win eight individual gold medals at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships in three years.

The lone blemish, if you can call it that, would be the silver medal she won in the 200-metre sprint last week in Mississauga, site of this year’s OFSAA meet.

“It’s not the colour (of the medal) that bugs me, but I’m pretty disturbed with myself that I didn’t execute the way I wanted to,” said Abdul-Rashid, who finished a mere .24 of a second behind Mississauga’s Maya Genard. “If I had executed exactly the way I knew I could’ve or should’ve and I got silver or bronze or didn’t medal, I’d be content, but it’s the not knowing, and it’s driving me crazy.”

The good news is the 16-year-old athlete has another year to make amends, and seemingly has the perfect blend of talent and drive to make it happen.

Remarkably, Abdul-Rashid’s two-gold, one-silver performance last week came despite the fact she is in Grade 11, extremely rare considering the top senior athletes are typically in Grade 12.

More amazing yet, her two gold medals came in the hurdles, which she decided only this year to focus on after sweeping the 100m, 200m and 400m running events the previous two years. To top it all off, her 400m hurdles time of 58.38 broke the 19-year-old OFSAA record of Nadia Schmiedt.

“I hadn’t touched down in the hurdles at a big meet for awhile, so I figured OFSAA would be a good time to test it out and see what’s up and it worked out,” said Abdul-Rashid, explaining that athletes can compete only in a maximum of three individual events and one relay. “I wasn’t expecting the record at all. I’m happy that it happened because we have five big meets coming up this summer and that time is looking good right now.”

The big meet she is eying this year is the world junior championships in July, and she figured the hurdles would be the most likely event to propel her there.

Beyond that, she’s hoping for a return to the top of the podium in three events at OFSAA next year, and has her sights set on the 100m hurdles record that was set by Pickering’s Perdita Felicien in 1998.

“I looked up to her always, so just knowing that I’m at where she was at would be crazy,” she said of Felicien, a 10-time national champion and 2003 world champion in the 100m hurdles.

A member of the Speed Academy in Pickering, where she’s coached by Tony Sharpe and Patrick Russell, Abdul-Rashid has ambitious goals beyond high school as well. She would like to land a scholarship to the United States and ultimately follow in Felicien’s footsteps and reach the Olympics.

“First, get to university, pick a good school, and the Olympics definitely,” she said of her plans, while admitting she hasn’t thought too much about where she’d like to go to school yet. “Somewhere hot, all year round, and that’s basically all I’ve got right now.”

David Astill, her coach at Eastdale, believes she has what it takes to realize her dreams.

“What she has accomplished so far in her three years is absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “What’s most impressive with Mariam is that she works hard. She has a special talent but on top of that she works hard at her craft and hopefully because of that she can get to that point of being an Olympian.”

It was a fantastic season on the track for Eastdale, as Aiden Victor also claimed OFSAA gold in the junior boys’ 100m dash.


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.