Missing the 1972 Games, she isn’t missing out now as W55 star
Yes, you can. That’s the message of masters track to many of us. Yes, you can go back to your track star youth. And Wendy Alexis got the message big time in her late 50s. As Martin Cleary writes in a wonderful Ottawa Citizen profile: “After double leg surgery, a doctor said she would never run again. Alexis, however, tried for five years, but never reached a finish line. A career as a teacher was easier on her health. ‘I loved taking my son to practice,’ Alexis, 59, said. ‘Weâ€™d talk track and heâ€™d say there are old people (training) at the track. My life was just so crazy. Teaching sucks you in.’ Track and field has the same effect. ‘I couldnâ€™t sleep that night (after her first masters practice). Part of me lives for the track because I didnâ€™t finish what I had started.’ ”
Here’s the whole story, since this is too good to let vanish:
For more than 28 years, there was a noticeable void in Wendy Alexisâ€™s nonstop life as a caring wife, mother and teacher.
It was nothing serious. But there was a task she had started as a teenager and hadnâ€™t finished. Then an opportunity presented itself to revisit that plan and pursue some athletic happiness almost three decades later.
While driving her son, Jordan, to an Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club practice one day nine years ago, Alexis, then 50, was struck with the idea of making a comeback as a sprinter. She was one of the countryâ€™s best dashers in the early 1970s (Wendy Braiden), but her athletic career was crushed when she didnâ€™t make the 1972 Summer Olympics team and had subsequent leg injuries.
After double leg surgery, a doctor said she would never run again. Alexis, however, tried for five years, but never reached a finish line. A career as a teacher was easier on her health.
â€śI loved taking my son to practice,â€ť Alexis, 59, said. â€śWeâ€™d talk track and heâ€™d say there are old people (training) at the track. My life was just so crazy. Teaching sucks you in.â€ť
Track and field has the same effect.
â€śI couldnâ€™t sleep that night (after her first masters practice). Part of me lives for the track because I didnâ€™t finish what I had started.â€ť
After settling into the starting blocks and training with coach Marta Piersferreira, Alexis has become the fastest female sprinter in the world in the 55-59 age group.
An elementary school special education teacher, Alexis has done it the hard way. At the age of 59, when she should be passed by all of the â€śyounger womenâ€ť in her age group, she captured the gold medals in the 60-metre (8.59 seconds) and 200-metre (28.46) finals at the world masters indoor athletics championships in Budapest, Hungary, last March. She also won a 4Ă—200-metre relay silver medal.
Nine years after her return, Alexis keeps challenging her personal-best times. In her 60-metre preliminary race in Budapest, she ran 8.56, which was faster than her final and .01 off her career best.
It was the second time in her career Alexis produced a double gold-medal sweep. At the 2011 world masters outdoor championships in Sacramento, Calif., she won the 55-59 100 and 200 metres. At her first world championships, the 2010 indoors, she was second in the 60 metres and third in the 200 metres.
After missing the 2012 world indoor championships because of injury and the 2013 world outdoors because she couldnâ€™t get time off school, she entered the 2013 World Masters Games and won the 100 and 200 metres in a Torino, Italy, heat wave.
â€śIâ€™m older and Iâ€™m not starting to slow down. The key is to train smart because Iâ€™m not 25. Iâ€™m training just as hard as the younger ones, but I need recuperation time,â€ť said Alexis, whose weekly schedule has her at the track three times, lifting weights twice and in the swimming pool once.
When Alexis committed to track nine years ago, it was a life-changing experience.
â€śItâ€™s such a positive thing,â€ť said Alexis, whose personal-best times are 13.59 for the 100 metres and 28.17 for the 200. â€śThereâ€™s so much positive energy and positive outlooks. In masters sports, you look forward to getting older.â€ť