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Glenroy Gilbert

Apr 2014

Glenroy Gilbert

To be able to impart some of the things I’ve learned over the years to young developing athletes is the best possible thing I could do.

What seems to impress most people about Glenroy Gilbert is the gold medal. The incredible performance he delivered in Atlanta as part of the 1996 Olympic Championship 4 x 100m relay team. But when you talk to him, it quickly becomes clear that he doesn’t define himself by the hardware he’s earned. What matters to him is giving his best in everything that he does—regardless of the outcome—and encouraging others to do the same.

Glenroy gives his mother full credit for instilling him with those values. A single parent with six children, Valma Gilbert moved her family to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago in 1973. “We were lucky to have a mother who cared as much as she did and would encourage us to be the very best that we could be,” says Glenroy, who didn’t get any special treatment from his mother for being an Olympian. “Half the time, she didn’t even know (about my accomplishments) as an athlete. That wasn’t what mattered to her. What mattered was that whatever you did in life, you did it to the best of your ability.”

I know firsthand that Glenroy makes good on his promise to help others succeed no matter what their ability. As a coach with Athletics Canada, he’s used to working with some of the country’s top sprinters. Glenroy also volunteers as a coach with the Ottawa Lions Athletics Club, which is where I met him. Even after seeing me come in dead last in my heat (or maybe because of it), he offered to help me with my start “any time.” He says that a lot, and from what I’ve seen, he always comes through. Learning how to set up and come out of the blocks from Glenroy Gilbert is quite an honour. The fact that I had that opportunity as an injured 30-year-old novice track runner says a lot about Glenroy’s character. He took the time to help me, even though it was very clear that the only way I’d be getting to the Olympics was as a spectator.

I didn’t see any ego from Glenroy. Assertiveness, definitely, and the calm confidence that tends to accompany being comfortable in your own skin. But he’s a very accessible man who smiles often and easily, and isn’t above coming to track with traces of nail polish on his pants left by his two young daughters, Ella Grace and Sadie. The fact that he has managed to stay humble and grounded is impressive because Glenroy is one of our country’s greatest athletes. Inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, he has participated in seven Olympic Games—five as an athlete, two as a coach.

Glenroy Gilbert
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