Quarantined coach watches from room as Crew makes history in world shot put

Brittany Crew makes her throw during the senior women's discus final. (Jason Franson/CP)

LONDON _ Brittany Crew planned to stay up until the wee morning hours after making women’s shot put history for Canada at the world track and field championships.
At 3 a.m. Thursday, Crew could finally share a celebratory hug with her coach.
The 23-year-old from Toronto, who was the first Canadian woman to ever compete in a world shot put final, threw 18.21 metres to finish sixth on a cold and soggy night Wednesday. Her coach Richard Parkinson had to watch history unfold on a makeshift video feed, quarantined in his hotel room with the norovirus that has struck nine Canadian athletes and staff.
“It was sad because I want him to be here. We’ve done this together,” Crew said. “But I have to focus on myself, first off all.
“I’m happy that it’s not me (sick),” she added, with a laugh.
Parkinson’s 48-hour quarantine ended at 3 a.m. Thursday.
“I wish I was there to feel the excitement of the stadium and the crowd,” Parkinson said from the central London hotel, where more than 30 athletes from several teams have fallen ill. “But, I think tonight’s competition shows that there will be plenty more opportunities in the future for me and Canadians to cheer on Brittany.”
Crew was the second youngest thrower in the event, which sees athletes usually peak in their late 20s and even early 30s. Her result was the finest performance by a Canadian thrower since Dylan Armstrong won shot put bronze at the 2013 world championships, and a massive leap for Canadian women in the event.
Crew threw 17.52 on her first attempt. Her best throw of 18.21 came on her second attempt. Just like he did for Tuesday night’s qualifying round, Parkinson relayed coaching tips through an elaborate chain of Canadian team members.
The team’s biomechanist Dana Way shot video with his high-definition camera, then played it back, shooting the screen with his smart phone. He in turn sent the video to Parkinson. Parkinson then texted his thoughts to shot putter Tim Nedow, who sat in the stadium’s coach section. He’d relay the comments to Crew.
“(He had) just a couple of cues: ‘You’ve got to go slow at the back,’ and ‘Speed it up in the centre,’ and ‘Look at that towel on the ground,”’ Crew recounted.
The towel is a trick of their’s. Crew lays a towel at the back of the circle which she trains her eyes on until the very last second. It keeps her from turning her head too quickly, which costs precious torque.
Parkinson’s wife and CTV news anchor Andria Case was in the crowd at London Stadium.
“I actually heard her today. She’s that loud,” Crew laughed. “She’s just there to keep me calm, keep me happy, joke around.”
Gong Lijiao, a 28-year-old from China, threw 19.94 metres for the victory.
Crew has come a long way in a short time. She battled depression after an elbow injury at Eastern Michigan University ended her season. She moved back to Toronto, but was going nowhere in the sport, working two jobs _ McDonalds and Loblaws _ and partying two much.
She turned things around, joining Parkinson’s throws group at York University, which is home to a handful of promising young throwers. Trinity Tutti, a 17-year-old who could pass for Crew’s younger sister, won shot put and discus gold at the recent Youth Commonwealth Games.
Crew is proud to blaze a trail for the young women coming behind her. She just wishes there were more.
“I think (there aren’t more) because of the body image issues. In high school, it’s a male-dominated sport, (girls) don’t want to compete in it because they’ll get bullied, all that kind of stuff,” said Crew, who wrote a paper on body image, and society’s skewed vision of the perfect body, for a university kinesiology class.
“So every time I’m training with some high school girls who maybe go through the same issues, I just tell them ‘You only have a certain period of life to do this, and you’ve got to make the most of it. Your body is a gift in throwing. Not everyone has it.”’
Crew, who’s been five foot 10 since Grade 6, grew up playing soccer, and was hesitant to throw the shot.
“I didn’t want to be in a male-dominated sport, I didn’t want to get bullied,” she said. “But when you’re given this gift and you’re given the talent, you’ve got to take the opportunities. I wouldn’t be able to travel around the world like I am.”
Her next trip is to a meet in Poland next week. She’ll then head to Taiwan for the World University Games, where she’s keen to improve on the bronze medal she won two years ago.
Canada will have two men in Saturday’s 5,000-metre final. Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont., ran the sixth fastest time in the heats in 13 minutes 22.97 seconds to clinch a spot, while Justyn Knight of Toronto ran 13:30.27 to qualify.
Ahmed was fourth in the event at the Rio Olympics, and eighth in the 10,000 metres here last week.
Genevieve Lalonde of Moncton, N.B., will race in the women’s 3,000-metre steeplechase final, running the ninth fastest time in the heats of 9:31.81.