We’re in the middle of the 2016 Rio Olympics, with athletics being a major focus this week. Earlier this morning (August 16), Edmontonian Angela Whyte represented Team Canada in the Women’s 100m hurdle, certainly a dream come true for her. Here in Alberta, hundreds of youth, particularly young women, are watching the Olympics closely, dreaming of the day when they themselves will proudly wear the maple leaf as they go for gold. We caught up with one such young woman to talk about following in the footsteps of Alberta’s Olympic women.
You never forget breaking your first provincial record. At least Catherine Kluyts won’t anytime soon. The 17 year old from St. Albert wowed the crowds at the 2016 Alberta Summer Games in Leduc July 14-17 when she broke the 100m hurdles record set by Angela Whyte back in 1992. We interviewed Cathy a week after her win at the Alberta Games, and she talked about her experience there, how she got into hurdles, and how it felt to break her hero’s record.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
I live in St. Albert and I’m a senior at Paul Kane high school. I moved here from South Africa in 2012. I lived in a small town called Knysna; it’s a little town, not very popular (laughs).
Alberta must be very different from South Africa…
I love it here; it’s a very nice environment. I enjoy the winters!
How did you first get into hurdles?
In South Africa, I did a variety of sports and trained a bit for hurdles, but it took me about a year to choose track and field after I moved here.
I participated in a number of events, including the 100m, the 200m and the pentathlon. One day my coach looked at me and told me to run a set of hurdles. So I did, and she immediately said “I’m putting you into a hurdle races. You look like a natural!”
What kind of training do you do? How much time is spent training for something like the Summer Games?
I train with Capital City Track club with my coach Carrie Saunders. She’s a sprint and hurdles coach, and she’s mainly my hurdles coach.
For hurdles, I train 2-3 hrs per day almost every day of the week, with Saturday and Sunday as rest days. We do things like hurdle mobility, speed training and so on.
Leading into something like the Alberta Summer Games, I focus more on stretching and hurdle mobility. That’s more of just keeping your hips flexible. I don’t train as much before [competitions like] the Summer Games because it’s competition time. It’s mostly just stretching so that our muscles don’t tighten up before the race.
What is your pre-game ritual?
I like to sit down, say a little prayer. Really just try to keep calm, take deep breaths. That kind of thing.
What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I find that consistently running my best time is a challenge for me. I need to get into that mindset, and the aggressiveness of going over the hurdle, using the right techniques, it’s all these technical things that really are some of my challenges.
I feel like a crazy person sometimes, but I talk to myself a lot, encouraging myself, and that helps me overcome those challenges. I really like to keep a positive mindset for as long as I can. I try to isolate myself from negative things, keeping a positive aura to overcome that. I feel like that really helps me.
Can you tell us your favourite memory of your sport career so far?
Right now it’s definitely when I broke Angela Whyte’s record! That’s a really good memory for me; I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
I had actually met Angela when I was training at Foote Field. I saw here there, but she looked so young I thought she was someone my age. So I went up to her and asked her if she was training for the Summer Games, and she said no, she’s here for Junior Nationals! She was running in the tune-up meet for Junior Nationals and I also happened to be running that weekend, so I got the chance to run against her. Later I went up to her and said “Sorry if I offended you for thinking you were younger,” and she said “No, its fine!” (laughs).
After that, we would run into each other training at Foote field. We didn’t really train together; she would do her own hurdle work and I would do mine, but we would talk a lot. I would ask her advice about some of the workouts.
After I broke her record, I was volunteering at TrackTown and I saw her race. I wanted to tell her before her race, but I didn’t want to psych her out. So then I was going to tell her after her race, but it started raining, and it got a little busy, but I ran into her before I was going to leave to go back to my school. She congratulated me and said “Don’t be shy! I’m happy for you!” So she seemed pretty happy when we talked about it.
Angela Whyte’s Alberta Summer Games hurdle record was set in 1992. That’s 24 years ago! How did breaking that make you feel?
I was really happy! I thought it was really funny too. I was glad that I broke her record because leading up to the Games I got to know Angela a little more. So for me, knowing that I was the one to break her record made me really happy.
But even though I’m happy I broke the record, it wasn’t a personal best for me. I actually ran a 14.16 at Sherwood Park provincials earlier in July. So this was the first record that I’ve ever broken, but I know I can do better.
Who are your sport heroes?
Definitely Angela Whyte. I didn’t really know about her before I moved to Canada, but once I met her and saw her run, there was just something there. I realized I wanted to achieve what she had achieved. She is my inspiration!
Another big inspiration for me is Lolo Jones, two-time U.S. Olympic hurdler. She keeps a really close relationship with God, and I’m a religious person, so I like to see that.
What are some of your other hobbies/passions?
I really like art. Anything artists, really. Anything to do with creativity. I like going to art studios where I can paint, sculpt…anything that is calming.
What’s next for you?
I have the Legions [National Track and Field Championships] in Quebec coming up in August. I hope to medal there. Then from there, hopefully I make it into the Canada Games.
Are you excited for the Olympics?
I am very excited! It will be amazing to see athletes from all over the world compete and I will of course be cheering on Team Canada. To compete in the Olympic Games would be a dream come true, so this is my long term goal in my athletics career.