Written by David Grossman
As a world-class athlete, Phylicia George knows the sparkle of prosperity and has faced variations of distress several times in past.
But it has not always come during her career as a hurdler.
Not known for being a quitter when, for many, it would have been so easy to pack things up and go in a different direction when things weren’t going well, George has found comfort in perseverance.
A resident of Markham, living and loving life, she’s known Canada-wide, and around the world as an Olympic hurdler and someone who, despite facing obstacles, takes a tenacious and determined approach to things.
Whether it has been injuries sustained in her path to achieving athletic prowess, disappointment in not reaching the medal podium or the enormous emotions that affected her when her mother died two years before watching her perform at the Olympics.
George has had to dig deep grabbing the tenacity to stay focused, confident and ambitious. Knowing that her mother encouraged her to do well on the track, she chose to go that route and competed at the Pan Am Games, Commonwealth Games, World championships and Olympics.
Often overwhelmed, tugging away at her conscience, George has grabbed control of her destiny. An intellectual individual who has found strength in dealing with setbacks, she has come away inspired and thriving on positive momentum.
“When things don’t go your way, you just take a deep breath, pause and then go forward,” she said. “I’m not the superstar, I’ve had to work hard to get where I am and very few people would continue doing what I do with disappointing (race) times – but my time as a hurdler will come to an end and I have to be ready to do something else.”
An honors graduate, Valedictorian and Athlete of the Year during her days at Father Michael McGivney High School, George didn’t compete in track until she was 15 years old. Still learning, and choosing the sprint hurdles over the 100 and 200 metres, she sustained an injury in her teen years.
“I remember (the injury) happened when I was pursuing a scholarship,” said George, who is now temporarily residing in Baton Rouge, La. benefitting from a high performance training environment while focusing on the 2020 Olympics in Japan. “Things happen for a reason. I went on to race in New York for my club team, a coach saw some potential in me and offered me a full (scholarship).”
George went on to study and earn an Honors Degree in Biological Sciences with special academic interest in Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut. Fascinated with the human body, it became quite obvious that George was focusing on another path: to be a medical doctor with a keen interest in oncology and pediatrics.
At university, and when she took a break from studies, George was lacing up her running shoes and was relentless setting school records in the 60m and 100m hurdles. Despite some progress, it wasn’t enough for George to gain National recognition and decision time came on whether to, what some called obvious, call it quits in track – or go the medical route.
George put the professional career on hold and went on to earn spots on Canada’s team at the 2012 Olympics in London and 2016 in Rio. Both times, she finished in the top eight – but short of her target and the medal podium.
“The challenge is to stay focused – do your best all the time. I want people to remember me for not being afraid to dream big,” said George. “Everyone has a work ethic and for me it’s all about consistency, doing things to make yourself great and understanding that it’s an achievement to be a world class athlete.”