To be able to impart some of the things Iâ€™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 doesnâ€™t define himself by the hardware heâ€™s earned. What matters to him is giving his best in everything that he doesâ€”regardless of the outcomeâ€”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. â€śWe 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,â€ť says Glenroy, who didnâ€™t get any special treatment from his mother for being an Olympian. â€śHalf the time, she didnâ€™t even know (about my accomplishments) as an athlete. That wasnâ€™t what mattered to her. What mattered was that whatever you did in life, you did it to the best of your ability.â€ť
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, heâ€™s used to working with some of the countryâ€™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 â€śany time.â€ť He says that a lot, and from what Iâ€™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 Glenroyâ€™s character. He took the time to help me, even though it was very clear that the only way Iâ€™d be getting to the Olympics was as a spectator.
I didnâ€™t see any ego from Glenroy. Assertiveness, definitely, and the calm confidence that tends to accompany being comfortable in your own skin. But heâ€™s a very accessible man who smiles often and easily, and isnâ€™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 countryâ€™s greatest athletes. Inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004 and Canadaâ€™s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, he has participated in seven Olympic Gamesâ€”five as an athlete, two as a coach.