Athletes have always inspired me. Whether it would be their discipline, their strength or even just the lifestyle of being a professional athlete, I have always been fascinated by what it must feel like to be considered the best in the world at something.
Perdita Felicien is a retired Canadian hurdler that paved the way for many female athletes in Canada. Not only did she become the first Canadian woman to ever win a medal at the World Championships, in Paris in 2003 but she also still holds the Canadian record for the 100 m hurdles that she set in 2004. Throughout her career she went on to win multiple medals at the national and international level.
Since retiring from competition, she went back to school to study journalism at Seneca College.
I’m thrilled to have her share some of her journey thus far with us on the blog today.
1) When did your love for track begin? What drew you to this sport?
I was introduced to track when I was around 9 years old by my teacher. I found success quickly, but I wasn’t passionate about it. I did it because it was something social to do after school. I quit for two years in high school; the only reason I went back was because my mother kept nagging me. Right away I was offered full athletic scholarships from American universities, but I turned them all down. I was a reluctant athlete despite my success and obvious talent. I eventually got some sense talked into me and accepted a scholarship from the University of Illinois in 2000. It was there that my real love for the sport developed, after a disappointing performance ignited a passion and determination I had never felt before.
2) You are the current Canadian record holder for the 100 m hurdles and the 2003 world champion, what does that mean to you?
To be the fastest female sprint hurdler Canada has ever had, and the first woman in Canadian track and field history to win a world championship title makes me proud. It means I’m a trailblazer and another woman can see what I’ve accomplished and chose to follow or surpass me. I competed for more than 10 years, and it’s only now, three years into retirement that I can look at my list of accomplishments and understand their significance and truly enjoy them.
3) You are a Seneca alumni and are taking part in their #BecauseItMatters campaign that highlights the school’s ability to prepare their students not only for their career but also their life as a whole through combining education, training and experience. How has your time at Seneca helped you with your professional career post athletic life?
While I graduated with honours from the University of Illinois with a degree in Kinesiology, when I retired in 2013 my passion was no longer in that field. I had to reinvent myself, but I was in my early 30s’ and didn’t have the time to go back to school for years at a time. I knew I wanted to enter the broadcast journalism industry quickly, but I also wanted to be competitive. After some research Seneca was the perfect fit. My instructors were knowledgeable and everyday we entered the class as if it were a live newsroom. We experienced all the intensity, stress and expectation we would face in a real job situation. I’m great under the pressure of deadlines; my ability to write quickly and clearly for media is due to the fact that we spent hours doing that in class. There are so many other skills I gained that I apply in my everyday life as a broadcaster. But the most important thing is my education from Seneca has media outlets taking me seriously as a journalist and not an athlete turned “talking head.”
4) What are your thoughts on society being more accepting of fit women and women in sports these days? How much change have you seen (if any) during your career?
I love it! I think we’ve seen society embrace athletic women as beautiful. There used to be a time where some women were afraid to lift weights because they thought they’d leave the gym looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now women want toned muscles and curves, because not only is it attractive, it’s a symbol of health. Dealing with women in sports specifically we have made progress: Equal prize money in many sports, recognizing women’s athletic achievements on the same plane as men’s and countless movements devoted to the advancement of women in sports. These are all great, but sport will likely be a male dominated space for a long time. That’s why I encourage everyone to support organizations and causes that promote the participation and inclusion of women and girls at all levels of physical activity and sport.
5) What are your career aspirations for the future?
In addition to what I’m doing with sports broadcasting and public speaking, I’d plan to write a children’s book for young kids in sports, dealing with overcoming obstacles and self-efficacy. I’d like to write a cookbook that teaches parents what to feed their little champions. I’m always asked by parents what to feed their children! In a perfect world I’d love to be on a morning news show with a panel of diverse, opinionated women covering headlines in Canada and around the world.
This post was sponsored by Seneca, however the opinions expressed are my own.