Glenroy Gilbert’s name adorns both the Canadian Sports and Olympic Halls of Fame.
At age 43, time has dulled none of Glenroy Gilbert's features. Tall, strong, cool and collected, Glenroy exudes confidence, and he inspires it in everyone around him. There's a lingering intensity about him, perhaps as a result of a life of combat. Glenroy's only visible battle scar is an Olympic gold medallist's ring. And as befits all our great heroes of war, his name adorns two Halls of Fame, the Olympic and the Canadian. Glenroy’s war was a personal one, but his victory became a nation’s pride.
He hears the shot and he doesn’t move a millimetre. It has taken years to arrive at this shot, training for it with every breath he has ever taken. The uncountable miles around the tracks at Ottawa U, Terry Fox, Summer Olympics in ‘88 and ‘92, Winter in ‘94. Gold medals in the ‘94 Commonwealth and ‘95 World Championships.
His body, roped muscle and boundless strength, quivers with anticipation for this moment. The heat is stifling; it chokes the air.
He readies himself for the hand-off.
Esmie, galloping up the stretch, every muscle looking like it’s about to burst with each powerful push forward. Everything becomes absorbed into that stubby little baton Esmie’s pumping in his fist with each bounding sprint. Gilbert’s spent his whole life running across the globe and now he stands perfectly still, ready for that baton. Esmie’s only a few feet away now, and Glenroy Gilbert explodes off the line. The baton slips effortlessly into his grasp.
The emotional and psychological high from that win will last him a while. Long enough at least to float through Athens in '97, a veritable Hermes incarnate, to pick up another gold medal, this time at the World Championships.
Does he miss competing? A resounding, confident no. He’s always wanted to be a social worker. He now spends his time doing pretty much that. It also happens to be the most logical progression of his life: training and coaching Canada’s next roster of world-class athletes with the Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club.
Gilbert would return to the Olympics once more for the 2000 Games in Sydney. Yet nothing in his running career would equal the success of that one hot day in Atlanta, when all of Canada sat rapt in front of their television screens, praying for a miracle and—miraculously enough—witnessing one.
Glenroy Gilbert’s name adorns both the Canadian Sports and Olympic Halls of Fame. It can also be found on the University of Ottawa alumni mailing list. Can yours?