By Dan Plouffe, published Oct. 20 in Ottawa This Week
When the Pan American Games kicked off last Friday, Oct. 14 in Guadalajara, Mexico, Sultana Frizell was again not there for the start of a major event in her sport.
But this time, it was only because the Ottawa Lions women’s hammer thrower’s competition comes later on the Pan Am program, falling on her birthday, Oct. 24, so there was no need to arrive too far in advance.
Earlier this season, however, Frizell missed out on the most important event before the 2012 London Olympics when she had to watch the Aug. 27-Sept. 4 IAAF world athletics championships from home.
“It was heartbreaking for me,” Frizell recalls. “For about a week, I was walking around like someone had kicked my puppy.”
The 27-year-old thought she had achieved the qualifying standard required to compete in the worlds, but she discovered at the last moment that her throw that covered the necessary distance had come just before the official qualification period opened.
With barely a week before the qualifying window closed and experiencing some major struggles with her form at the time, Frizell couldn’t pull off the standard in a last-ditch attempt.
It was tough to watch the competitors she knows so well competing on an Internet feed early in the morning instead of standing beside them in South Korea, but eventually, it caused her to return to training with renewed fire.
And one day – after struggling for nearly a full year to get back into the kind of shape that saw her finish in the top-10 at the 2009 world championships – it suddenly clicked again when her Ukrainian coach said the word “around” and a single throw pointed her back on the right track.
The former University of Georgia athlete has been throwing good distances with her heavier training equipment in practice and is excited to see what will happen once she fires the four-kilogram ball at the Pan Am Games.
It won’t be an easy task up against five more of the world’s top-20 ranked hammer throwers in the Pan Am region, but the goal, she notes, is to win a medal.
Frizell, along with shot put world silver medalist Dylan Armstrong, is one of a very small number of top Canadian track-and-field athletes competing in Mexico since most felt the Pan Ams – which are being held about two months later than usual in steamy Guadalajara – would interfere with their preparation for the London Olympics next summer.
“I’ve heard that runners like to do their ‘base training’ in the winter, so I guess for them I understand why they’d miss it,” notes Frizell, who tries not to think much about the Olympics because it can distract from the everyday goals required to be in top form. “I’m not too sure exactly what base training means, I think they run up hills a whole bunch or something, but I’m a thrower – there’s no way in hell I’m running up hills, so Pan Am Games is no problem for me.”
Frizell – who now lives at the national team’s throws center in Kamloops, B.C., a city that reminds her a lot of Perth with a friendly country vibe to it – looks at the Pan Am Games as a good opportunity to get some more experience in a multi-sport setting.
The fourth-place finisher from the 2007 Pan Am Games remembers getting “the Hershey squirts” while in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so she plans to pack plenty of her own food to not have a reoccurrence this time.
“I’m really excited for the Pan Ams,” says Frizell, who’s looking forward to seeing an old friend of hers from Perth, judoka Nicholas Tritton, and hopes to celebrate a medal win along with her birthday after the competition.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.