By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
There are not many good times in sports for injuries to pop up, but in Matt Hughes’ case, this could have been one of the worst.
Only six days before Hughes was meant to compete in Olympic trials, a competition that would have seen him running for a spot on Team Canada, he suffered a calf-strain during training.
“In this sport, you have to be ready for that,” Hughes tells The Oshawa Express in an emailed response from a high-altitude training facility in Pack City, Utah.
“When you are training at this high of a level, you are always riding that fine line between being in amazing shape, ready to take on the world, to being hurt and injured and not being able to compete.”
Luckily, the strain was minor, only needing a short time to heal, but trials were out of the question.
However, the two-time NCAA champion and Pan Am gold medalist steeplechaser was in luck. According to the selection criteria for Team Canada, top-athletes can be given exemptions if, for some reason, they are forced to miss trials, but only if their national ranking is high enough. Well, Hughes is the top-ranked steeplechaser in Canada, and has finished in the top eight at the last two world championships.
While the accomplishment is something he has dreamed about ever since he can remember, Hughes says he is trying to keep it from getting to his head.
“It means the world to me,” he says.
“I’m not sure it has sunk in yet, and I’m not sure I’m letting it either. I’m a very competitive person, so for me, the job isn’t done yet. It’s one thing to make the Olympics and it’s another thing to compete at the Olympics.”
He says he does not want to let that fact that he is officially an Olympian get in the way of his training in the lead up to Rio, which starts Aug 5.
“It’s full steam ahead now, so I can be my best come Rio,” he says.
“It will be nothing but eating, sleeping and training from this point on.”
Hughes will pack up from Pack City on Aug. 10 ahead of his first round competition on Aug. 15. Finals for the steeplechase are set for Aug. 17.
Hughes is one of 65 athletes named to Team Canada’s athletics team.