The Olympics. Sweat, tears and glory with the world watching and national pride on the line. Few truly understand the sacrifices it takes to make it to sports’ ultimate stage. Fewer still are willing and have the necessary talent. University of Texas at Austin alumni Glenn Smith was one of the rare souls it seemed destined for Olympic competition. Growing up in Canada he was an elite sprinter, excelling in the 100 and 200-meter dash, going on to represent his country six times in international competition. He was also a star sprinter for the University of Calgary. In 1999 he was recognized by Athletics Canada with the Fred Tees Memorial Award, which goes to the top athlete enrolled in a Canadian University, after winning the Canadian 200-meter championship and placing 13th in the event at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Sevilla, Spain.
It was a victory that should have helped him achieve his dream. Smith preselected to head to Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Olympic games due to his 13th place finish, but then tragedy struck.
“I just had to prove fitness that season by running a rather easy time for me, but I suffered a bad calf tear during training in April and was not able to run at the trials,” said Smith of the injury that cost him his shot at Olympic glory.
As devastating as it was at the time, Smith still looks back fondly on what he calls his greatest athletic achievement.
“In Seville I entered the competition with the 51st best time of the entries, but managed to make the semifinals and placed 13th. I was especially pleased to be able to compete at that level in my first world championships,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that I suffered such an extreme injury and didn’t get to do it for a long time, but the people I met along the way and the experiences prepared me greatly for the coaching that I do now. Having competed at the highest level, I understand what the athletes go through.”
Smith’s coaching career began after he graduated UT – where he went to grad school after receiving his bachelor’s of science in kinesiology from the University of Calgary in 2002 – in 2005 with a master’s of education in sports science and nutrition.
His first coaching job was an assistant at Kansas’ Neosho County Community College. There he helped the women’s team rise to fourth, from eighth the previous year in conference, and the men’s team move up from seventh to third. Smith coached five NJCAA Coaches’ All-Americans during his one year at the school. He moved on to be an assistant coach at Tulane University for three years and finally Central Michigan University for two, before returning to Canada in 2011 via an opportunity he could not refuse.
“That August, I had an opportunity to return home from Calgary and work at the national
training centre and I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
Smith’s official job title at Canada’s Calgary High Performance Centre is Olympic development coach. It gives him the opportunity to work with the finest athletes his nation has to offer.
“I assist another national team coach, Les Gramantik, with a group of heptathletes and jumpers and am starting a group of my own. We have one athlete in the Olympics, Jessica Zelinka and two in the Paralympics, Earle Connor, and Alister McQueen who I coach personally,” he said. “Jessica is currently ranked fourth in the world in the heptathlon with a good shot at a medal, and an outside shot in the 100 hurdles where she is ranked seventh. She has been on fire this year, and beat an amazing field in the national championships, including former world champion Perdita Felicien and Olympic medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.
In the Paralympics, Earle is the favorite in the 100. He is the world record holder and two-time champion. Alister is still young. He just turned 21. Making the final in the 100 would be a great accomplishment for him.”
Smith is following Olympics coverage closely to keep track of his charges, but was especially looking forward to the heptathlon (which began tonight) because of Zelinka and, of course, the sprints.
“I’m excited for the 100m as everyone else is,” he said, noting that it was hard to argue against Usain Bolt – one of the favorites in the race –being the greatest sprinter of all time due to his amazing dominance over the past four years.
“Carl Lewis had amazing longevity however, so could be in the argument. If Usain wins either or both races this year, though, he will solidify his place in history as the greatest.”
As for what else he will be keeping his eyes on as the games progress:
“The men’s 110 hurdles is an amazing field with four athletes who have either set the world record or have the potential to. The women’s 100 hurdles will be very interesting, with Sally Pearson one of the greatest ever running, That race is always interesting with the favorite falling in four of the last five Olympics. The men’s shot put has about five men who could win the title, and Ashton Eaton, who recently set the world record, will be exciting to watch in the decathlon.”