Kelly Prins’s bucket list just got a bit shorter.
The track and field coach at St. Mary High School always wanted to take part in the Olympic Games and last month in London, he was able to spend a whole day watching the world’s best.
“Going to the Games was unreal,” says Prins. “After I was there I heard that it was the best day in history for Great Britain in track and field at the Olympics– they won three gold medals that day or something – it was kind of cool to share in that.”
That highlight would be enough on most days, but Prins got to see so much more as the day also featured Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in a preliminary heat for the 100-metre sprint and Humboldt’s Brianne Theisen competing in the women’s heptathlon.
“In a sport that I work in, no one is more dominant than Bolt,” says Prins. “He has taken world records to levels that scientists never thought possible.”
“Bolt has such a personality,” added Prins. “When he came on the track I was like a kid in a candy store.”
Prins and fellow track and field coach Harvey Webber from Nipawin were the beneficiaries of some bad luck to get their tickets to the Games. Kelsie Hendry from Saskatoon was heavily favoured to return to the Olympics in the women’s pole vault, but at the Canadian championships she posted a “no result” after missing three attempts at a qualifying height.
That unfortunate situation resulted in her coach giving up their tickets to the Games and after a call to Prins the plan was in motion to head to London. Prins and Webber had tickets for just the one day, but what a day it turned out to be.
“The crowd support for Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis (women’s heptathlon) was insane,” says Prins. “She was almost endearing to them. Whenever she was out there for an event, she had to back off a number of times to refocus because of the noise.”
“When Bolt ran, everyone just flooded the area (by the track),” added Prins. “We did too. When we were in there we thought this is a once in a lifetime thing lets see if we can get closer. We got right down there in the mix. It was pretty exciting.”
While moving around in the stands, Prins happened to meet Theisen’s parents and that turned out to be beneficial in another form as Prins is presently coaching one of the most promising heptathlon competitors in the country – Katelyn Lehner.
Prins was particularly interested in Theisen’s attendance at the University of Oregon, an American college that is expected to be among the many suitors for the St. Mary track star once Lehner begins her senior year of high school next week.
Prins has worked with Lehner for a number of years and this past summer pushed her in the direction of competing in the heptathlon. In one of her first meets in the new discipline, Lehner finished second in the country, against women that were much older and more seasoned in the sport.
“Katelyn is a real anomaly,” says Prins. “She is a sprinter, but she has an energy system to run fast times in middle distances.”
“She is very good and knows what she wants,” adds Prins. “I have nothing but admiration for the kid to be honest.”
While Prins will continue to train Lehner as she continues to progress in the sport, the decision on her future will be left up to her and her parents.
“If they come to me and ask me for my opinion I will help,” says Prins. “I have a real strong relationship with them, but ultimately it is in their hands.”
Maybe the next time Prins goes to an Olympic Games he will be able to watch one of his prodigies in action. For now, however, the experience and memories of what he saw in London will be with him forever.